Remembering 9/11

Today, I honked for freedom driving down the interstate to work.

Before my junior year of high school, I always felt like I was supposed to take September 11th really seriously. I spent recess that day pressed against the red brick walls of my school building, fearful of bombs being dropped on my head not too far from Manhattan.

I was forced to grow up after 9/11. We, the 5th graders, oldest kids in the elementary school, were the only ones notified of what actually happened because we were the oldest. Our teacher, who had only been our teacher for a few days at the time, explained that we were old enough to know the truth upfront. It was bizarre, going through our days being the only ones in the school besides the actual adults who knew what was happening. We had such limited information. We were so scared for our parents, many of whom worked in the city. It was difficult watching the younger kids play at recess while we hid in the shadow of our school, unable to bring ourselves to tell them why we were “playing” a game of “don’t get hit by a bomb”. Many students were called home early. Looking back, these were probably kids whose parents worked close to Ground Zero.

Of the students who were called home early, I remember one particularly family. There was a big extended family of kids, cousins of cousins of cousins was how they were related, besides sharing a last name. I remember this family very clearly because they were dismissed from class one by one, and these dismissals were done over the entire school’s intercom system. For about 2 hours, they were all dismissed. We all giggled about it, saying that they should just tell the whole family to go home at once.

It occurred to me a few years later that this was one of the Arab families that attended my school, and that maybe parents working near Ground Zero was not the only reason they were called out of school early.

I remember doing a candlelight walk through the neighborhood. I wasn’t really sure of why I did it. I brought my brother out with me and we walked through most of my isolated neighborhood, leaving a trail of candlewax drippings as we walked. Some grownups would say to us, “You’re doing a great thing.” I didn’t think so. To be honest, I mostly had fun playing with the candles and letting out my inner pyromaniac. Although I conducted my walk with solemnity, I didn’t truly understand what had happened. One of my friends went through the neighborhood on his bike with an American flag hanging off the back, blowing in the wind as he rode around. I didn’t understand what he was doing.

It occurred to me a few years later that maybe he understood the power of the imagery of his Middle Eastern face riding with an American flag in his wake, and that maybe he understood what may have otherwise been thought of him if he didn’t put this image in his neighbors’ minds.

We tuned into the news and I watched for the first time in my life. We listened for every single name that was read off, the people who were missing, the people who were already reported as having passed away. It was one of the few moments I was able to sit still and focus my attention on one thing. Fortunately, I knew none of the names on the list.

I think that for several years afterwards, I remembered this day the same way I conducted my candlelight walk. I understood that there was a great weight to carry, of the lives that were lost, of the drastic changes that took place in this country. But I don’t think I really felt personally affected. I could have been. In reality, however, on September 12th, I was one of the least affected people in my region. I solemnly commemorated every year out of a sense that I was supposed to be really invested in what happened. But I don’t think I was.

That’s what I thought. But my junior year of high school, something changed. It was my AP world history class, and during the end of the course after our AP exams were over, we watched some documentaries about modern history, ending with the September 11 attacks. I put on the solemn face that I usually wore when commemorating 9/11 and watched with my classmates.

I’m not sure what triggered it, but I soon realized that I was crying.
Not crying. Sobbing. I was silently sobbing in my seat at the front of the classroom, but I was becoming less and less silent. I didn’t even realize this until my teacher came up to me and asked me if I was okay. Slightly confused, I tried to ask her, “What do you mean?” when I realized I couldn’t because I was taking little gasps of air in between sobs.
Oh. That’s what she meant.
She let me leave the classroom so I could sit out in the hall to calm down. I sat in the hallway, continuing to choke on sobs.

I was so scared.
I admit that I’m the type who might cry in class over something like this to draw attention to just how affected I was by this.
So the fact that I had no control over this scared me. I have anxiety about situations where I have no control, and my difficulty in breathing had become one of those situations. I started crying more consciously because I was scared of my reaction to this documentary, this footage that I had seen before, the news reports I had heard before.

I guess I was more deeply affected than I thought.

So today, 12 years later, I remember. I think I’ve seen much less remembrance than I usually see on this date. People referring to “Patriot Day” still seems strange to me. Do they know what Patriot Day is?

Do people know what changed on September 11th?

The Nation’s Capital of Fun!

Today, I went to Six Flags America because my boyfriend’s dad’s company had reserved the entire park for a family fun day for all employees. I think it’s nice for companies to spend money on nice things like that for their employees. Personally, even though I sometimes feel weird about companies spending their money on employees in crazy ways, I think that letting employees and their families have a fun day at Six Flags once a year is a nicer and better use of money than flying people around first class everywhere to stay in presidential suites and eat at really expensive restaurants.
That’s just me.

Anyway. Our group was me, my boyfriend, two of my closest friends, and my younger brother. I was actually pleasantly surprised that my brother agreed to come with us, because he said no thanks the first time I asked him a few weeks ago. I know that he just started college, so I figured him wanting to spend time with his new friends there combined with a very natural teenage aversion to spend time with his big sister who feels a compulsion to embarrass him as much as possible to make up for my parents not being able to.

Snickers ad on the side of a wooden roller coaster
Fun Snickers ad I saw when walking into the park

I had so much fun!

It was a really warm and beautifully sunny day today. We arrived at the park at about 11:00 AM, and we set off immediately for a roller coaster before the lines started getting too long. We rode Apocalypse, which is a stand-up roller coaster and does little things like blow fire and smoke near you. (Whoa there.) This was decently fun, but it did shake us around quite a bit. We thought this was the “headache coaster,” as my brother warned.

We were mistaken. The “headache coaster” is wooden roller coaster Roar. Wooden roller coasters tend to shake a lot, and Roar is no exception. I still have a bit of a headache from how much that ride thrashed me about in my seat. It was pretty painful. I will not be riding that again simply because I was really uncomfortable with how much my head hurt afterward.

After that rough experience, we took it easier with High Seas, which is your standard swinging ship ride. While it’s a great deal tamer than the roller coasters we had just experienced, it gave us just enough of a thrill, too. The moment of zero gravity you experience when you’re at the top of a rotation is pretty fun, but can be harrowing for more timid riders. (Like my friends, who I spotted clutching each other for dear life.)

Having settled down and calmed our heads, we went on The Mind Eraser, which loops around quite a lot but was not as jolting to my head as Roar was. We liked this roller coaster quite a bit, especially since it didn’t hurt us as much as Roar did…

We had some time, so we stopped to watch the Pirate Hunters show. I was very skeptical of the show that promised humor and stunts, but the show actually delivered really well. The jokes were REALLY funny. The risk that a lot of these shows take and fail with is being too campy or trying TOO hard. I think Pirate Hunters tried pretty hard, but they had a lot of really good jokes and were not afraid of laughing at themselves. They incorporated some popular culture references into the jokes, and while sometimes those seem really poorly executed, theirs were great. (“Yes, I started from the bottom. Now I’m here. Now the whole team’s here!”) Great job. I underestimated them. The stunts and physical humor were okay, but also better than I expected. (“Parkour!”)

Photo of myself with my friends and the cast of "Pirate Hunters"
From left to right: “Quartermaster”, “Chef Linguini”, Jen, Molly, “Captain Dante”, Me, “James”

We also did some bumper cars before heading off to lunch. (Although I was lapped a few times, I think I was able to bump into my friends more than they were able to bump into me or each other. That’s a win in my book!)

The company sponsoring Family Fun Day also had a great lunch spread ready for us. I ate a hot dog, a hamburger, potato salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, chips, and a cherry-flavored ice pop. And some delicious orange Hi-C to wash everything down on this hot hot day. Omnomnomnomnom.

We obviously didn’t want to go on any roller coasters after gorging ourselves at the lunch picnic, and it was really quite hot out, so we headed straight for Shipwreck FallsThis is the ride you go on if you want to be drenched. Avoid this ride if you do not wish to be soaked. This was maybe our first actual line that we encountered, since it was a hot day. We sat in the back, with all of us being a little worried about our shoes (which we were required to wear), socks, jeans, etc. Since we were sitting in the back, we got the FULL BRUNT of the splash of our little boat PLUS the splashing of water falling off the bridge above us.
Needless to say, I was soaked through and through. Since we were already as wet as we basically could get, we decided to stand on the bridge upon exiting, because the bridge is where you REALLY feel the entire wave of water that is splashed up. (I don’t think you have to ride the ride to go up the bridge, since it’s up by the exit, but mostly only people who are leaving the ride wait there and get WHOMPED ON by water.)

Soaking wet, we walked about to ride another water ride, since we were already as wet as we could get. We rode on Renegade Rapids, which is a significantly less wet ride and this park’s version of the rapids ride where you sit in a big circular raft and get bumped and splashed by rapids. We may have worried some people stepping off our raft, since we were still drenched from Shipwreck Falls.

Then we headed for The Joker’s Jinx. I have to say that my favorite roller coasters were in the Gotham City area of the park, because they didn’t jerk me around and were fast and fun. Joker’s Jinx loops and twists a lot, but was a good deal of fun and helped my hair dry! Score! XD Also, this coaster launches you out at the start rather than having you make a slow ascent, so you go from 0 to 60 mph in about 3 seconds. This startled the bejeezus out of my friends, who decided they did not want to ride Joker’s Jinx after all.

Then we went on Ride of Steel, the Superman ride. This is the tallest roller coaster in the park. It is the type of roller coaster that has a very high ascent and a very steep descent. Very fun but also very smooth, since it didn’t really thrill you by jerking you around corners and twists, although you weren’t completely upright the entire ride. There were bends and turns, but the ride felt very nice and smooth. I’m only sorry that my friends got a bit scared and wouldn’t ride this one with us either.

Our last ride of the day was Batwing, the Batman ride. The line was quite long here, as it was nearing the end of the day and I guess it’s a popular ride anyway. You sit down in your seat, but then the seat reclines until you’re horizontal, and you make your ascent with your back facing the peak of the ride. Then you are flipped around and you soar over the park, getting dangerously close to the ground with nothing between you and the grass but the air and your restraints. It’s a really fun ride.

All in all, I had a super duper amazing great time. I’m glad I got to spend time with my friends and my brother and my boyfriend, and I hope they all had as much fun as I did. 🙂

Leaving the Park

Exciting September

I promise promise promise you all that I am drafting my city-by-city recap posts from my vacation. I am well-aware that I left for vacation way over a month ago and I am now approaching the one-month point since I returned. SORRY! It hurts me, too, because every day that I don’t write about my vacation, I forget little things I learned about each city or saw or heard or felt.

But those posts will come. There are drafts saved. Photos are being uploaded. I’m going to get this done!

They won’t be coming for at least a week, because I have a super jam-packed week coming up.

September 8 – Six Flags trip
September 10 – Red Lobster Yelp dinner event
September 11 – Muse concert (!!!!!!)

I think that blogging about my foray into the Baltic Sea region will be a great way for me to get over the adrenaline crash of all these exciting things happening to me.

It’s also nice that this September, I’ll be kept busy with these activities, since this is the first September in 18 years that I haven’t been attending classes. It feels really… off. So all these fun things can distract me from my strange existential crisis. 🙂

I usually try to space out my fun activities to about one per week so that I have something to look forward to at the end of every week. Also, I often have a hard time concentrating when I have a lot of things during the entire week. Plus, that lull where I have several exciting activities and then nothing for weeks can be really grueling.

I’ll also be going to Manhattan at the end of the month for a little weekend getaway. The trip was originally going to be the weekend of the 13th, but I didn’t want to have to go months without something to look forward to, so I put it off for a few weeks.

I’ll be posting about all these fun things PLUS my Eurotrip after next week, so stick around!