9/11 Taught Me How to be a Good Friend

My own blurry iPhone photo from that night

From my Brooklyn apartment, I can see One World Trade Center. A couple weeks ago, the crescent moon hung in the night sky right beside it. Everyone walking down my street took a second to capture fuzzy pictures on their iPhones. That night, the brightly shining One World Trade Center seemed like it pierced through the atmosphere to touch all the people who lost their lives in that exact location 13 years ago.

I remember exactly where I was when I found out what happened. The guidance counselor brought out all the fifth graders into a common area to break the news to us. We all sat stunned as she told us about the towers. Students sitting cross-legged around me immediately started to cry for their parents.

"My dad works in that building."

"My mom had a flight today."

A calm, normal school day in Westport, Conn. suddenly turned into a frenzy of phone calls and tears.

I think this was the day I figured out what kind of friend I want to be.

My dad worked in Stamford, Conn., so I felt comfort in knowing his whereabouts. But I had several friends in complete fear for their fathers. I had neighbors coming up to me bawling, telling me as they caught their breaths they couldn't get ahold of their dads

The only way I knew to help was by showing every ounce of support in my little body for my friends. I sat with them in the front office, holding their hands while they called their parents off the hook. Even when my dad came to pick me up early on his way home from work, I decided to stay with my friends.

At 10, I never faced such dire times. The most I had to comfort my friends through was the death of their beloved beta fish. But as I sat in the office, staring at the glowing aquarium in the corner, I knew this was something so much larger than telling them they could buy a new fish at the store tomorrow.

In those moments of uncertainty, I knew I wanted to be the person my friends could rely on for unwavering support—even if it meant not saying a word. When I did have something to say, I did my best to put some semblance of a smile on their faces with a silly aside. Today I find myself doing the same through break ups and layoffs.

Thankfully my friends' fathers were safe and sound. We were too young to know the geography of Manhattan. The distance between the towers and Midtown was out of our realm of comprehension, but what I did know was I wanted to shine bright for my friends in dark times just like the Freedom Tower does every night.

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