Remembering 9/11: A tragedy through the eyes of a 12-year-old

Each week, Swampscott Reporter editor Katrina Powell rounds up and reflects on her recent published work, giving readers an in-depth look at life in the newsroom. This post does not reflect the opinions of the Swampscott Reporter or its parent company, GateHouse Media New England. All opinions expressed in the post belong to Katrina Powell, and did not hinder her ability to be objective and unbiased in her reporting and writing.

Save for a few years in college, I have lived in Swampscott my entire life. And it’s a place that truly means so much to me.

And on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I was given the opportunity to write a column for the Swampscott Reporter – way back when I was merely a reporter for its sister papers – and I jumped at the chance to share my perspective with the community that I’ll always call home. But the subject matter wasn’t easy to tackle, and I was working purely off my recollections from middle school 10 years prior.

In all honestly, I struggled immensely when writing this piece, not only because of the emotional impact that day had on me, but because I knew that I was one of the lucky ones. I was filled with guilt, and lambasted myself for being so emotionally distraught – even a decade later – when thankfully, I hadn’t lost a loved one on that tragic day. Who was I to share my perspective, when I wasn’t affected nearly as much as other people have been?

Ultimately, after some deep soul-searching and discussions with my with colleagues, I came to realize that everyone’s experiences are important regardless; we must remember that while tragedy may affect everyone differently, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re all affected. And those experiences are vital to our overall understanding of events and how those events impact the world around us.

My heart continues to go out to all of the families affected by this heartbreaking tragedy, and I thank all those who responded for their unbelievable bravery and courage. 

In the years since becoming the editor of the Swampscott Reporter, I’ve continued to republish this column in the newspaper to mark the anniversary of Sept. 11 2001.

My hope is that it helps readers find some clarity in how children perceive traumatic events, and how they come to cope with those feelings over time. Many times, we assume that children are resilient, and that over time, they bounce back from trauma. While that may be true in some cases, I am of the mind that it’s critical not to discount their emotions and experiences; they may not understand things to the full extent, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t impacted.

Read a portion of the article below, and follow the link to read the article in its entirety.

Room 210 of the old Swampscott Middle School was dead silent. Mrs. Flynn, our eighth-grade Language Arts teacher, had instructed us to study our weekly vocabulary words in preparation for Friday’s vocab quiz — even though it was only Tuesday.

As I stared at my flashcards attempting to look as if I was intensely focused, my mind was busy daydreaming about the boy in my homeroom who I had a crush on, Mike Polacco. The year was 2001 and I was a naïve 12-year-old girl who thought bright blue eye shadow was cool, and whose biggest care in the world was worrying if the boys I liked, liked me back.

I imagined what it would be like if Mike was my boyfriend, and what it would be like to have a boyfriend in general. Seeking a more entertaining way to pass the time, I flopped my flashcards onto my desk and looked around the classroom. I smiled at the boy seated next to me, Evan Markham, who clearly didn’t even know I was alive. I looked at the clock at the front of the classroom, hoping it was almost time for the end of class, but to my dismay, it was only 9 a.m.

Just then, Mrs. Flynn’s classroom phone that was affixed to the wall under the clock let out a loud ring. The events that unfolded following that phone call are haunting memories that I will never forget.

Click here to read the full article >

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