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Remember 9/11

Sara Felsenstein | Monday, September 12, 2011

On Sep. 11, 2001, while my parents sat paralyzed before the television, I curled up on the floor with my journal, trying to grapple with it all myself.

I felt compelled to write down whatever I could — somehow I knew this was an entry I’d look back on.

“Our United States is changed forever, that’s what the news reporters say,” I jotted down quickly in pencil. “Our whole country is shut down. Can you believe it? New York looks like a war site.”

Ten years after the towers fell, I can’t say I have a much better understanding of 9/11 than when I was an 11-year-old.

But slowing down daily life to cherish relationships is one of many lessons I’ll take away.

My hometown of Ridgewood, N.J. is about 20 miles northwest of Midtown Manhattan. With many residents commuting to the Financial District for work, Ridgewood was deeply affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.

We were just removed enough to be out of the chaos, but close enough to see the smoke.

As I think back to those days, weeks, even months after the attacks, what strikes me is how Ridgewood — a typical fast-paced New York City suburb — slowed down for just a little while.

People lingered outside of church for longer than usual. Candlelight vigils in the town square took priority over homework and sports practices. Downtime in front of the television turned into time for community gatherings. Residents pulled together rotations of lasagna dinners for families who had lost a loved one.

With the skyline broken and 12 community members lost, people found time for what was important.

Then 9/11 passed, and the dust settled. Trains kept running to and from Penn Station.

Morning, noon and night, people got on and off those trains.

And life went on.

The further away 9/11 gets, the more it seems like a piece of history than a lived experience.

But it’s important we let that day continue to inform our choices and actions.

With the immediacy of communication and the 24-hour news cycle, our generation is known to move through life at an incredibly fast speed.

We talk fast, type fast, walk fast. I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of that mentality.

Sometimes it feels like the only way to reach our goals is to go, head first, alone.

But let 9/11 remind us there is always strength in numbers.

Let 9/11 remind us we don’t need pain to come together.

Let 9/11 be a reason to spend more time with important people in our lives, even if that sometimes means being a few minutes late.

There will always be another train.