We had just begun our math class when the teacher suddenly got up and walked out of the room. Then, around 8:30, every alarm went off, all of them blaring at the same time. We all panicked. Our teacher rushed back in and told everyone to go home—whether your parent was there or not made no difference, you still had to go home.
We rushed from the room as fast as we could. I ran into one of my older friends, and we went home together. Our families lived in the same building. We went into his part of the house, where his sister was already watching CNN. They were streaming live what was occurring where my mom was working.
We watched in horror what was happening just a few miles away. On the inside, I was screaming. On the outside, my jaw dropped open. We sat there watching the terrified people running and screaming, trying to get away from what we now call Ground Zero. We argued for the longest time over which building went down first—the south building or the north building. But in the end, it never mattered. After this, everything became a blur. I was 7 years old.
My aunt came in contact with a guy from HBO and a psychologist, Dr. Gilda. They made a documentary of my life after 9/11. That documentary made a bad situation worse. It was like taking a marshmallow, already crisped in a fire, and putting it in a microwave. What happens? It explodes. We had a memorial for Mom, and then ... the blur began again.
I went to live with my dad down in Virginia. It was hard for me to leave all my school friends, and I was still rejecting the truth of the entire situation. I recall leaving my house with a small bag in my hand—a bag that contained a few of the things my mother had once owned.
In Virginia, I had some good times, but the heartache was still there, unable to be relieved. I became mentally unstable, easily saddened, and despising the world. There would be times when I considered committing suicide. Praise God that I didn’t, though!
Then Dad introduced me to my future stepmother. For the next few months, she and I would go out to McDonald’s and just chat. But I had the hardest time accepting her as a stepparent. I was still wrestling with what I now call my “inner demons.” They are called depression, wrath, and unforgiveness. They ruined my life for many years.
In 2005 we moved to New Hampshire. It was the beginning of what I now call the “time of silence.” I withdrew into myself and began a period of loathing my stepmom, who I believed was the reason we moved.
I can recall days when the sun would be up but all I could see was darkness. I call those my “blind moments.” I thought for the longest time that what happened on 9/11 was my fault. I could not forgive myself. I could not forgive the man who caused me the most harm: Osama bin Laden. I didn’t know how to handle the burden of being a 9/11 victim. I told some people who I was, they told others, and pretty soon everyone at my school, the Good Shepherd, found out, as did the members of the church I attended. But my issues still didn’t change. My inner demons kept on attacking. The summer before high school, I went to a church camp. It turns out that it was the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. You see, I was still carrying the one thing that was wearing me down and leaving me broken. I was still carrying my mother. I wouldn’t let her go. It was almost as if she was bound to me. But then during one service, one of my good preacher friends and a few other ministers gathered around me, and they began to pray for me. My preacher friend told me that it was time to let everything go. Throw it all away. For a moment, I didn’t know what was going on; all I could see was this blinding white light. A voice began to say, “You belong to me, my child. You shall no longer be burdened with these chains that you wear about you. You are free.”
It was then that I realized I was in my own prison, bound with the thick iron chains of depression, wrath, unforgiveness, and—the thickest and strongest of all chains—my own mother. I can recall being deathly quiet for several moments. Then words came into my head. They weren’t really spoken, but it was as though they were there all this time: I love you. Now go and tell -others the same.
After I was redeemed at the church camp, I had a new desire. I wanted to be able to tell bin Laden that I forgave him for the hideous crime he committed against me. When I heard that he had been killed in the spring of 2011, I was crushed, because that dream would never come true. Forgiveness is essential to really moving on from any tragic happening. I came to learn this through studying the word of God, prayer, and real-life experience.
Looking back, I see just how hate-driven and how mentally distorted I was. Is this what everyone else affected by 9/11 feels? I couldn’t tell you. Do they need to be that way? Absolutely not.
Nicholas Lanza, 17, now a high-school senior in Virginia, blogs at siegfriedelric.webs.com.
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