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Sixteen years ago today, I was enrolled at St. Lucy’s Catholic School in Newark, N.J.

I was 9 years old and very ready for gym class — I was wearing a plain white t-shirt, gray sweatpants and nerdy white sneakers.

I remember being angry that the one day that week I was able to wear these comfy gym clothes instead of a uniform, and the one day that I could run around with reckless abandon, all of my classmates were leaving school without any explanation from teachers or parents.

Some left as early as 10 a.m. Others left at noon. I left at 2 p.m. and was among the last three in my class to leave.


When I went outside, I saw my mother standing there with arms outstretched and a look on her face I won’t soon forget.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“People flew planes into the Twin Towers, Matty,” she said tearfully.

I cried.

She led me around the corner of the school, up the block a few hundred feet, turned right and pointed to the skies. All I saw was thick black smoke where I knew the Twin Towers used to be.

I had nothing to say.

After this, we drove home. No words were necessary.

Once at home, I sat down on the couch, turned on the TV and all I saw was static. The signal was down.

I stared at that static screen for hours.

A young couple walks past thousands of flags placed to honor of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in front of Hankins & Whittington Funeral Home in Charlotte, N.C.
A young couple walks past thousands of flags placed to honor of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in front of Hankins & Whittington Funeral Home in Charlotte, N.C./AP

If you’d like to make today about the “perils of religion” or the Iraq War, the NSA or any other such political thing, you are free to do so.

I, for one, would rather remember the victims, their families and those first responders who are still sick today.

Today should not be about settling political scores, but about being thankful that we’re still here.

On September 11, 2001, I was a 9-year-old kid — and I’ll never forget that day.

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