• Today is the first day of school. Mom and Dad dropped me off a little while ago, with lots of smiles and hugs and “you’ll have lots of fun!”s, but I soon realized that I don’t know anybody. Everyone else made friends last year, when they were all the new kids starting school for the first time. But not me, I’ve left all my friends behind in Manhattan. With a new school and a new house and a new neighborhood and a completely new life.
    We all gather on the grungy blue rug in front of the big dry-erase board mounted on the wall. The teacher writes something on the board, but my attention has wandered elsewhere. I slowly slide a book off the shelf beside me, hoping nobody notices me. They don’t. It’s an old favorite of mine, a green picture book about a disturbingly generous tree. I flip open to the first page and begin sounding out the words. I’m only five years old after all. I look at the pictures, happily ignoring my social dilemma.
    The principal walks into the room a little while later. She urgently whispers something to the teacher and they both get very serious. I use this short moment of distraction to quickly replace the book I was looking at. I sit nicely on the rug with my legs crossed, like I was supposed to have been doing all along. They continue to talk in hushed voices, and I wonder if I should have put the book away so soon. The principal gestures towards the window. They keep talking for a few more moments and I keep sitting there like a good little girl, then the principal moves on to the next classroom.
    “Please be quiet,” the teacher says to the class, which has quickly degenerated into whispers and giggles. She walks back to the front of the room and tries to continue teaching, but now she seems somber and distracted. The teacher walks over to the window and looks out. Like ducklings following their mother we trail after her, but all we can see are the brownstones across the street silhouetted against the cloudless blue sky. The teacher looks like she is about to say something, but doesn’t. We wander back to the rug and continue with the lesson.
    School lets out at lunchtime, an unexpected half-day, and by then I have forgotten about the morning’s solemn events. All the grown-ups seem to realize something that I don’t; even my mother seems to be in a bad mood. “Mom, what’s the matter? Why are you mad at me?” I ask her after she snaps at me for running off one time too many. “I’m not mad at you,” she replies, leaning down to hug me, “but something very bad happened today. Some very bad people crashed planes into the world trade center this morning.” She points up into the sky and I see what my teacher had been looking for earlier, a great black plume of smoke rising in the distance.
    It will take time for me to completely understand the situation, but eventually I will piece together enough information from dramatic news reports and overheard conversations to know that many, many people are dead and everyone is in shock. Normal life screeches to a halt. Now parents are a little more protective, teachers a little more serious, and children a little less innocent. A boy in my school, whose name I have long since forgotten, is absent for over two weeks. I learn later that he has lost his father. A teacher has also lost a husband.
    For a while life remains paused, no one is really sure where to go from here. But eventually we must move on. For us kids this is easier, new worries will soon replace old ones, and eventually this day will just be a fuzzy memory or an old photograph. Meanwhile I will make new friends, visit new places, and enjoy my new life. Then one day, over a year after the frightful attacks that shook the small world of my kindergarten class, I will have a sister. She will not remember September 11, 2001, because she was not alive to experience it. But she will hear so much about it, from the community around her and even myself, it will seem like she really was there. So for now we will get on with our lives, knowing that a day like that can never really be forgotten.