COLUMN: For one who was too young to understand, pain of 9/11 comes 10 years later

Rock Bridge High School/Columbia, Mo.
Posted in Remembering

Mahogany Thomas

COLUMBIA — A 6-year-old can definitely understand when something’s wrong. No child, however, could have dreamed of the severity of the terrorist attacks 10 years ago.

Across the U.S., no one could have imagined what occurred on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. However, the victims of the terrorist attacks and the minds of all Americans quickly began to process the repercussions. These assails changed our lives forever.

I didn’t have to be an adult to capture the fear in my student teacher’s eyes, or the tears streaming down my teacher’s face. Only a first-grader at Russell Boulevard Elementary School, I didn’t have to know what was going on to feel the awkward silence.

A feeling of shock swamped the school. Students couldn’t grasp the brutality; however, the enormity was right in our reach.

In my eyes, the worst that could ever happen to a 6-year-old was breaking a bone or losing a friend. Multiplying those losses by a million, I figured, was the best way to capture the world’s grief.

Ten years later, multiplication is out of my equation. The capacity of my childhood mind evolved. Instead of just seeing the pain of what the tragedies brought to the surrounding lives, I began to understand.

Just a few months ago, I had a conversation with Abraham Scott, who lost his wife Janice M. Scott, in the Pentagon attack. Because of horrendous acts of terror, he’s now a father of two daughters who are without a mother.

Tears streamed down the side of my face as I listened to the former budget analyst for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington. It was 10 years after the incident, and I could fully grasp the ruthlessness of this tragedy.

The middle-aged Scott described leaving the Washington Metropolitan Transit subway, assuming he would see his wife in less than eight hours.

He proceeded to talk about that morning’s attack on the Pentagon, and then he froze. Scott said all he thought about at the time was calling his wife of 24 years. But it was too late.

The hijacked plane crashed into room 471 where Janice was working.

Determined to reach his wife, he repeatedly tried to contact her via phone. Then he searched hospital after hospital.

“I came so close to finding her,” Scott said of one of his hospital stops. “I gave (the hospital staff) her name. They said they had her. Checked the address and the Social Security number, and it wasn’t her.”

Heartbroken, he continued his search by riding subway train after subway train. But in the end, there was no reward.

It wasn’t until later that he was able to find his wife — after she had already died.

Upon learning his story, I was furious, overwhelmed, tearful and in shock.

What really hurt was the fact that he and thousands of others had to go through this horrific pain. They would never see their lost loved ones again. This hurt me deeper than a bee sting and was more painful than a broken bone. The situation was inexcusable and appalling.

One hundred eighty-four people were killed at the Pentagon, leaving families without mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Another 2,753 victims died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. In addition, all 40 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 perished when the plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

No longer did I see towers falling and planes crashing. Instead, my vision expanded. The lost lives of innocent souls were in my horizon.

Ashamed to admit it took 10 years to fully comprehend, I can now look at any victim of the Sept. 11

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tragedy and truly sympathize with their pain.