Exactly ten years ago I was just beginning the sixth grade. At this point, my elementary school was just shy of 100 years old. The building itself had once been a trade school for young farm boys to hone their skills in tilling the fields, harvesting tobacco and cotton, and overall, maintaining a working farm. In 2001, much of the farming community in Catawba County, North Carolina has gone by the wayside but still survives as did my current elementary school building. And now here I was, sitting in a desk studying on my books on American history, filling in vocabulary terms of some such. It was Picture Day and everyone was sitting still as to not muss up their hair or clothes.
I don’t need to say what happened on this day 10 years ago at this time. Much has been said and there will always be more to say by those who know a lot more than me.
I was sitting in this room exactly 10 years ago today when we got an announcement over the intercom, pictured here next to the “In God We Trust” poster. At the time we had this principal from New York City who came down to do his principaling in Newton, North Carolina for some reason a year prior. He talked different from all of us and even had a certain attire that gave off an air of Out-of-Towner; pinstripe suits, gold jewelery, and shoes that somehow outshined the floors on Monday mornings. He was a nice guy, though.
So he came on the intercom and told all the classes, 3rd graders and above, to turn on their television sets (I always thought it was weird, and still do, that the K-2nd grade never turned on their TVs; It must’ve been too traumatic). I looked at the TV sort of ignorantly. I guess I couldn’t process or understand what was going on. Throughout the day, our teachers each had their own explanation for us on what had happened, some opting for a swift and deadly counterattack, others expressing their sympathy; they just couldn’t bear to watch.
As a sixth grader, I didn’t know who to side with, or if I even should. I just felt scared about making it home safe. And so since then I’ve cultivated this sense of fear, which is some cases is good, but it often tends towards the outlandish paranoia. I can’t recall not going through tumultuous security measures at the airport now or a time when we weren’t in a war. I remember tiptoeing around my house as if to prevent the terrorists from hearing me and bombing my family to pieces from overhead. Naturally there had been talk of them coming to Charlotte, North Carolina as it is the second largest banking city in the United States.
And so I continue to tiptoe for 10 years. I visited Washington, DC when I was around 6 years old and looking back at old photographs from that trip, barricades are few and far between around the White House. In fact, you could walk right up to Department of Treasury, to the steps, even. I know because I’m posing with my sister and Alexander Hamilton in a particular shot.
I live in Washington now and just last week I noticed a peculiar spike in police officers, stopping people every once in a while to check identification. It’s been raining for the past several days and it’s been so humid, much like it was in North Carolina about 10 years ago.
I made the above picture in that classroom in August, after having not been in that room for 10 years. They’ve since gotten a flat screen TV and gotten rid of the old one. The “In God We Trust” poster was probably added several years ago. The poster is hung precisely in the spot where the TV was secured to the wall where we watched the news that day and I found that very odd. History manifests itself in different ways it seems.
How long can we wait till we notice History has stepped in?