In the summer leading up to September 11, 2001, and the surrounding terrorism events, I was very sick. Physically, I was seriously wasting away. Mentally, I couldn’t deviate from living a perfect life where I had 100% control. This manifested itself in severe anorexia, depression, and some obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Emotionally, I was regressing into a more innocent person. A non-person, really. I wanted to protect myself from the world around me so I imploded.

By September, I was completely withdrawn and a shell of my former self, which had been confident, gregarious, and social. I focused all of my attention on being an exceptional student, and not eating. I remember distinctly sitting in my sixth-grade classroom at Highcrest Middle School. I felt weak and diminutive in my chair. At this point, I barely made eye contact with my fellow students. However, I was lucky enough to have two teachers that I trust implicitly and treated me like a person.

On that September morning, I remember being vaguely aware of something very serious happening, and yet, I felt very insulated in Chicago and in my classroom with a trusted teacher. In my limited and distracted perception of events, this was something happening in New York. I didn’t understand the implications until I got home from school and witnessed my mom glued to our analog television in the kitchen, which was highly unusual.

I also remember making American flag beaded pins with my soccer team to fundraise for the recovery efforts. I was still not talking to anyone if I didn’t have to, but I did feel a sense of purpose that I hadn’t for a long while. I felt part of something good that was bigger than me and my personal struggles.

Years later after I recovered, I remember meeting a candidate that had lost a significant other and many friends during the attacks, as she had worked in the World Trade Center. I’ll never forget when she shared that part of her life and career story with me. It was a reminder of how impactful, devastating, and tragic it was for so many Americans.

While my September 11, 2001 experience was very indirect and shrouded in obscurity given my mental state at the time, I do try to pause and reflect about it, especially as I get older.

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