Jill Pertler

Jill Pertler

At my house, we are entering another senior year. As senior years go, I consider myself fairly experienced. I’ve relished in and endured a handful so far (if we’re counting my own and my husband’s). And that’s only high school. College is another story.

But this senior year is special, and not just because my last and final child is (hopefully) graduating in the spring. This senior year is special because of what happened to all of us 18 years ago.

It was September 2001. The 11th day of the month, to be exact. Most of us woke up like it was any other day. We now know it wasn’t.

And this year’s senior class? They weren’t around to watch the TV coverage of 9/11. Most of them weren’t born yet. They were but belly bumps.

On that day, we will remember, just as people before us remembered the end of the Civil War, both World Wars, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, the assassination of JFK, the landing on the moon and any other day that lives in infamy in our history and in our minds.

On September 11, 2001, I had a bump of my own, a budding life ready to make his presence known to the world. As I stood in my kitchen and watched the first plane crash into the first tower, I thought it must be a horrible accident — an individual pilot who had lost his way.

What else could it be?

Then, the second plane hit, and I knew we were in the midst of something much more horrible than an accident. My heart sunk into my stomach. At least it would have if there had been any stomach left to sink into.

I held my bulging belly and was pulled in different directions. On one hand, we were experiencing terror beyond belief. On the other, I had a life to nurture. I had optimism growing inside me. He, and those amongst him, had to be born to make the world right again.

But first, he had to learn to walk. And later go to kindergarten. And then middle school and high school. And now, he and those in his class are anticipating graduation come spring. I’m not sure they realize the significance of their status.

This group of seniors (for the most part) is the first to be born after the tragedy of 9/11. They’ve never known 9/11 to be simply random numbers. They are the first to grow up in a nation influenced fully by Sept. 11, 2001 – yet they know nothing of it firsthand.

It is our job to tell them. It is our job to help them move forward in ways that change the world in positive ways.

As I stood in my kitchen, belly bulging 17-plus years ago, I feared for the future. I didn’t know how it would unfold or what it would look like. The worries were overwhelming.

Today, I look at my son and his friends and I see the future.

And despite all my mom worries about driving too fast, making the wrong choices, not making the team, underperforming on standardized tests, getting into the right college, online bullying, carbon footprints and the reality of big foot, we’ve made it this far.

Today, I look at my son and his friends and I see the future. And it is bright. The future is bright, indeed.

Happy senior year!

— Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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