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I Didn't Get It

It's the morning of September 11th, and like so many of us, as I walk throughout this day, I'll think back and remember everything about where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with on September 11, 2001. And like every year, it will wreck me and remind me of something I will never forget.


On September 11, 2001 I was in my senior year at Brandeis University. I was pre-law and interning at the Attorney General's office in Boston.

I was in the office super early because I had to get back to campus for afternoon classes. It was my 3rd day and I was working away in my little government office cubicle. No one really knew me yet. Honestly, I think they forgot I was even there.

The next thing I know I was told by security that I could go home, because they were closing the office. My manager was nowhere to be found, and I had no clue what was going on. I didn't get it.

I overheard in the stairwell that a plane hit a building in New York. I assumed it was an accident. I didn't get it.

I made my way to the commuter rail. There were so many people running in suits. I was walking in my suit and wondering why they were running. I didn't get it.

I got to the station. The trains weren't running. The lines were long. People were anxious and upset. I was clueless. I didn't get it.

I realized I wasn't going to get back to campus right away. My phone wasn't working, so I couldn't call anyone to come pick me up. My office was closed, and I didn't have class until 3. It was a beautiful day. So I decided to go shopping in Fanueil Hall.

Yup. I shopped on 9/11. I didn't get it.

It was definitely a different time, back then. I didn't have a smartphone with moment-to-moment access to what was happening. But the part that is the most confusing, and honestly wrecks me when I remember back, is that I didn't talk to anyone and simply say, "Excuse me, Human-Being, Passerbyer, Stranger, Citizen, Bostonian, American, Brother, Sister...can you please share with me what it is going on?" I didn't do that. I shopped. Oh, and I had teriyaki chicken in Quincy Market. I SO didn't get it.

Hours later I headed back to the train. North Station was quiet, my train was running, so I got on it. I read my book. I was relieved I would be back in time for class. I didn't get it it.

I walked back to my quad to grab my books. I stepped into my dorm room and saw my classmates and roommates all huddled in our common room, glued to the tv, tissues everywhere and eyes puffy. They jumped up, hugged me and said, "Erin! Thank God you are okay! Where have you been? We've been trying to get through to you all day!" I didn't get it.

It was at that moment, that I finally asked what had happened. They told me. I saw the footage. I dropped the shopping bag and fell to my knees. I was wrecked. I got it.


And for the hours, days, weeks, months and years since, I've mourned those that lost their lives on those planes, in those buildings and in the efforts to save, protect, heal and rebuild. I've mourned with classmates, colleagues, neighbors and friends who lost friends, parents, children, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives.

And while I will forever carry the shame of shopping and eating teriyaki chicken on 9/11, I can also say it was a moment that has forever shaped who I am and how I parent.

It's why I always say hello, ask people how they are doing, and why I'm never afraid to ask for help. And it's why I tell my kids to say hello, ask people how they are doing, and to never be afraid to ask for help.

Because we are Human-Beings, Passerbyers, Strangers, Citizens, Bostonians, Americans, Brothers and Sisters. And on 9/11 we remember that that really matters. That our moments together really matter. That we can help each other and that really matters.That we love each other and that really matters. 

I didn't get it. I freakin' shopped. But oh, how I get it now.

Remembering, mourning and never forgetting with you dear ones.

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