I remember getting out of school almost as soon as I had arrived. No one explained anything. There was a person on the loudspeaker telling the students that their parents would be arriving shortly. No one was told why.
As I left the school, I wondered what the reason was for this great fortune. I thought about how wonderful it was to be able to play with my friends. It wasn’t until much later that night that I was told what happened.
Naturally, or unnaturally, I didn’t really understand what was going on. My uncle was in the second tower that got hit, but I was told not to worry because he made it out ok. “Of course he made it out ok,” I thought. “He’s too young to die.” A naïve thought.
A few days later, he told me about what happened to him. Although it was a horrific event, he managed to make everything seem ok. He told me about how he lost a pair of new shoes when the tower went down, how women had to take off their heels so they could escape faster, how a lot of people made it out safely by using the elevator. “Aren’t people supposed to use the stairs if there’s any emergency?” Maybe it isn’t always safer. “Most people,” he said, “made it out using the elevator. They got down a lot faster.” I still don’t understand.
Although I didn’t lose anyone in the destruction, I was still worried about safety. Planes themselves don’t scare me, but there’s now a slight panic when my planes are about to land. I’ve been afraid of heights for most of my life, but now I’m even more afraid of being in tall buildings. Like Oskar, I started inventing in order to cope. One of the inventions I recognized was to have buildings shift, and not the elevator. Thinking back on that, I realize how impractical that is. Not to mention, if that were to happen, what would become of the people trapped underground?
I’ve never met anyone who has lost a loved one in the flames, so I feel like Oskar’s story is the closest I will get. I still wonder how it feels to lose someone in that way. How would I have reacted? Would I understand the meaning of death? Would I understand once we got to the funeral? I’m not even sure if I would have been as affected as Oskar had been. My uncle and I didn’t have the kind of relationship Oskar had with his father. Would I have been heartless? On the other hand, could I be so traumatized that the memory fades into my subconscious?