I was told “You will never forget this moment”.

And I haven’t.

There are moments in life where everything around you is internalized- cataclysmic moments where everything turns on itself and life shifts from what you’ve known. Hiroshima, the Kennedy assassination,  the stock market crash, they all come to mind. Perhaps some live to have many of these moments in their lives and the more you are aware of your surroundings the more likely you are to even realize when these are occurring across the globe- natural disasters, wars, death– the often crippling moments of life.

I had one of these moments nine years ago, many people did. In 2001 I was sitting in my 7th grade math class when a teacher rushed in and said some words to our own lecturing teacher. She turned on the television. Everyone was talking all at once and I was confused, on the television we saw massive clouds of black smoke coming from two buildings.

It was early in the day, we hadn’t gone to lunch yet.

At first thought I concluded that the civil war in my country had finally exploded into a massive death toll. I had only moved from Colombia three years prior, and the constant guerrilla warfare always resulted in casualties and our family was always on edge- a week before this date a church with a full congregation had been blown up blocks away from my grandmothers house. I held my breath as I thought of my family and their safety. I breathed easy when I realized this was in New York- when I realized my family was safe.

This easy transition to relief was challenged by the agonized looks in the faces of my peers. Our teacher was sitting at her desk gripping her hands, as the first tower fell so did the tears. I can still remember that moment of pure selfishness as I stared at the TV, the moment when I realized that I was fine because those I cared about were fine. This would not affect me.

That moment of selfishness still haunts me. The fascination at which I watched these horrible events unfold did create empathy, but it was late in its arrival. Those mere minutes of relief have created a memory which still haunts me.

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