15 Years: I Remember

I remember sitting in my eighth grade social studies class when the news broke. I remember the hushed, yet frantic, teachers coming in and out classrooms and across halls spreading updates among each other as events of the morning continued. I remember understanding how awful the situation was, but at that point I was so unaware of the tragic roots that 9/11 would soon weave into my existence. 

The rest of the day was unlike other school days, but I still carried on as normal in my childish naivety. During the last period, my PE teacher got a call from the front office saying I was leaving early and needed to change and go. “Woo hoo! I get to leave school early!” As I approached the reception desk of the front office I remember my mom looking very distraught and saying very few words. During my confused, silent walk back to our van I toyed around a few ideas as to what could be the problem, not yet putting two-and-two together of the horrible news from the morning.

As I climbed into the van, my dad was driving and my brother was already in the back seat; they picked him up from high school before getting me. The doors shut and it was just the four of us locked away in our own little world. Just the four of us: how it always was and how it sadly will never be. My mom turned around in her seat and between tears and a shaky voice asked me if I knew what happened in New York that morning. I said yes, still unaware of how this was affecting my family as we didn’t know anyone living in NYC. She kept going. I kept staring blankly. She reminded me how Uncle Tommy was just in Boston for a wedding and to visit our relatives. “Ok, and…” She then connected the dots and explained how one of the flights to hit the Twin Towers was flying from Boston to Los Angeles, and that he was on that tragic Flight 11 that hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 

The week of September 11 was an election time for student government positions at my middle school. I only remember this because the first tear to fall ran down my cheek, onto my shirt and made the ink of a “Vote for Mike!” sticker bleed. A single tear. My mom told me it was ok to cry. I wanted to scream; I wanted to burst into tears; I wanted to wake up from this nightmare. But the only thing that could be released amidst the grasp of the weight of the world crushing me was a single tear.

I remember 9/11 because it changed my life forever.  

He was the third leg of the tripod of my parents; the coolest adult I knew; the man whose humor I often imitate but could never match; a talented, amazing human that graced this earth for not nearly enough time and that I got to call Uncle Tommy. I will always remember him. My love for him is abundant and never ending. 

The days, weeks and months following were a blur consisting of a rotating door of people visiting to share their condolences and casseroles, along with multiple memorials coast to coast. From Massachusetts to California, the amount of lives Uncle Tommy influenced and reached was both overwhelming and heartwarming. People from all walks of life came to pay their respect. Stories from each of them brought both tears and laughter—and tears from laughing so hard at his infamous antics.

Just a few short months before our last goodbye, my uncle sent me birthday flowers with a card that said “Happy Thir------ Birthday!” because he refused to accept that I was now a teenager. These days it’s hard for me to accept that I’m just a few short years away from the age he was. Where did the past 15 years go and how did they go by so fast? That part I can’t seem to remember.  

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Uncle Tommy, you are missed beyond belief. So much of who I am is influenced by your involvement in my childhood, and for that I thank you. I often think of you in so many life situations and ponder what-if moments, every new milestone I reach that I know you would refuse to accept as well. I love you to the moon and back. Till we meet again in another life. xx