The world, and I, have changed so much in 17 years. Yet, I can still vividly remember so much of that crisp and beautiful Tuesday in September.

I was in seventh grade at the local Catholic high school for grades 7-12. We had just moved to Minot, North Dakota from Lakeridge, Virginia in May. Dad went from working at the Pentagon to commanding a missile squadron.

First period was band, where the teacher was auditioning us for chairs and McKayla and I were competing to see who would play the school’s one available oboe, and who would have to change instruments. Second period was life science, where all we did was watch the devastating news pouring in, and see as the second plane hit. The first plane hit while we were packing up in the band room during the bell between periods.

I don’t remember the other order of my classes, because after second period, the whole school gathered for impromptu daily mass in the gym. Then we had adoration and the rosary. Followed by the counselor breaking us into mixed grade small groups to talk through our emotions for the day and keep us from watching the news cycle. It was meant to protect us from seeing it play again and again, but they were images you couldn’t escape, and still can’t.

Seventh grade is the only year I went to Catholic school. I lived on the Air Force Base and school was in town 30 minutes away on a clear summer day, nevermind the deep snow days of winter. Add on to that the heightened security the base remained under and an average day took three hours to get home. That Tuesday we were on the bus outside the gate for close to ten hours.

Friday, September 14, someone jumped the fence on base and we went into lockdown. It’s also the morning I got a phone call from D.C. where my friend Ive had been battling her brain tumor since we were in fourth grade. She passes away that morning at the same time I had been listening to Unanswered Prayers on the radio.

Seventeen years is a long time. There are college kids now who have never known the world as it was pre-9/11. They don’t always understand why we pause each year to reflect and remember. The school William & I both work for is hosting a memorial today, as they always do, especially in honor of the friar in their order who was one of the first to die seventeen years ago. He was the chaplain of the New York Fire Department and was attending a victim as the world was literally consumed in fire and he was hit with falling debris.

On a day when the Catholic Church is in torment, and I am fighting through my frustrations and disappointments in leadership corruption in my faith, I reflect on the immense good and healing my faith has brought me. I am grateful for that year of Catholic school and how they handled guiding us on a day that forever changed the world. I am grateful for people like Father Mychal Judge and the teachers and staff at my school in Minot. I am grateful for people like Mister Rogers who remind us to look for the helpers in times of tragedy.

There isn’t really more to this than a reflection on my thoughts at 5 a.m. on September 11, 2018. I’m 29 now instead of 12. I’ve moved often, and engaged in rich experiences, and other than tighter security measures on the bases I grew up and on flights, the events of 17 years ago haven’t effected my life directly like they did for so many people who lost the ones they love. But that day is forever etched into my memory, and today, as every day, I will try to love everyone I meet well because you never know what their story is or what kind of day they’re having. I will choose kind and service today, as always, and try to bring light into the world.

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