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Every time someone asks me what I was doing when the Twin Towers were attacked, I tell them the truth, that I was asleep in my bed. And each time I feel insolent and disrespectful saying so. But it was true.

On September 11, 2001, I was living in San Diego. I had just started sixth grade the week before. And when the first plane hit, it was 5:46 am Pacific Time, 6:03 am when the second plane hit.

I remember a frenzy on the radio on the way to school, but I was half-asleep in the car and news isn’t quite an 11-year-old’s hobby. My mom dropped me off the side of the road and I walked up the hill to the side entrance of my school.

To this day I remember the girl who told me about the attacks. Her name was Brittany Clark. I don’t know where Brittany is nowadays or what she’s up to. We were never close and when I moved away less than two years later, we lost contact. But I can still see her 11-year-old face as she told me.

I remember thinking that it was an accident. And in the naive mind of a child, I thought that somehow no one had been hurt. I think I knew that the people in the planes were probably hurt, but for some reason in my mind there was a wall of invincibility around those inside the buildings. I also had no idea what the World Trade Center was.

I remember going into my first class that day and seeing the teacher, one of our school’s pair of best friend hippies, standing there with anguish on his face as the news replayed footage of the planes hitting the World Trade Center. I remember briefly thinking that it was odd that my teacher would be watching some action movie so early in the morning. In my mind it didn’t click immediately that the footage was of what Brittany had just told me.

The rest of that day was a blur. I don’t even remember hearing about the other two planes that day even though those had already crashed as well. Or even soon after. Perhaps it’s my defense mechanisms going to work. Perhaps my memory chose to lose itself. Yet something that I didn’t quite have the grasp on at the time changed forever the world I was living in.

Since I moved away from California I’ve mostly lived in the Eastern and Central Time zones. And each year on September 11 it still surprises me how differently my friends who lived in these time zones remember that day. It didn’t matter that we were all 11-, 12-, 13-year-olds at the time, something about seeing what happened live and something about living closer to where it happened changed the experience completely for them.

September 11 has been named as one of the defining moments of my generation. Yet I still struggle to pinpoint my feelings and memories of that day.

Nine years now.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall. It was the slogan of those days. We all believed in it. Can we please return to those times of solidarity and work together for this country instead of fighting bitter partisan battles?

Where were you on 9/11 and how old were you? How do you remember the attacks?