Since reflections are big where I am a practicum student, and now with me, I have been thinking about posting one since the prompt came up on Twitter a few days ago. I was 14 on 9.11.2001 and I had just moved away from home to attend an ski academy in Maine. I watched the second tower get hit on tv with the headmaster and my teammates after a morning workout, and I was shocked. It was not until noon or even later that my mom was able to get a call into the school, and told me she had been trying for hours to reach me, and her brother — the phone lines were too tied up to get a call through from Boston. At that point I was terrified, and even though had picked fights with my parents to try to make the separation easier, was as homesick as I could imagine.
I tried not to think about this whole scene all that often. Each year it comes back into my mind, and I think for a while and push it away- move on with my life, embracing the day. I remember life is short. Things were not always perfect, I still had fights with my parents, I moved back home my junior year of high school, and graduated in June 2005. That September I moved away to college and had a difficult time transitioning. The fear of not being able to reach my parents was real, and suddenly things came back to me again. Years continued to go by, I developed friendships with cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. I reflected upon how I never thought as a child that I would grow up knowing what it would be like for America to be attacked, for there to be a recession and a war. These were all things I had read about and was now living. I’ve decided to try to take in every moment. At 14 I did not realize how short life could be.
As I sit here, 10 years later, a graduate student in my last year of my HESA program, I think. In fact, I haven’t stopped thinking since September 1st about this day and how I would feel. I realize that it is important to go out each day with a smile, tell my family I love them, and really make sure the work I do each day within the field is good work. I wasn’t on a college campus 10 years ago, but I was at a boarding school, and know what it feels like to be away from home during such an event. Since then I have not questioned being an American, (which I did when I was younger due to being an Irish National as well) and pay more attention to what is going on in the world. I don’t think I have necessarily thought about how I have changed until I read this blog post. I accepted the challenge, and as I drove back to my apartment from my parent’s house, I had the following thoughts:
1. Community is important- communities come together in the good times, and the bad, and as I work in student affairs, with the desire to go into residence life after graduation, building a good community is something I need to do.
2. Tragic events are processed by everyone differently, being able to recognize that is crucial. I have made sure to keep an open mind to how people react to the news and the ongoing fear that there will be another attack.
3. I am thankful each day for my friends and the countless men and women who are currently serving and deployed.
4. It is important not to generalize. The actions of a few people do not mean that everyone who looks like those people, or who comes from the same area is the same. Expanding my multicultural competencies is an ongoing goal of mine.
5. September 11, 2001 was a terrible day- so was December 7, 1941- we need to not forget our America’s history even though we were not necessarily alive for it.
I never thought I would be a graduate student when I was 14. I hadn’t even thought about college yet, and as I sit here recounting that day, and where I have come I have remember life is a journey. This day 10 years ago was clearly a big bump in everyone’s journey, and changed everything as I knew them. I feel fortunate that I have had the chance to reflect on this, and had the courage to post my feelings and thoughts. To me, reflection encourages growth and development, and even though I have grown a lot since I was 14, there is still more to go. With that, I say, carpe diem- seize the day, life is unknown, and uncertain, but we should try to make the best of everyday.
Beth Solomon is a second-year graduate student at Salem State University.