History Flows, But Memories Stay in Our Life’s Path (Guest Contributor)

Dear readers, I’m Jiamin Yu, an international exchange student at Bridgewater State University for this semester. The essay you are about to read is my interview with Deborah Critzer about 9/11. It’s not only an unforgettable interaction between Deborah and me but also serves as an assignment for my course, “English as a Second Language.”

I was fortunate enough to meet Deborah on September 12, 2023, at the Maxwell library. She approached me, offering assistance and shared her memories of 9/11 with me

Deborah Critzer is a benevolent staff member at the Maxwell library. We met in the library on September 12, 2023, and her story touched me deeply. We discussed her memories on September 11, 2001. It felt as if my heart was being wrung out.

On 9/11, she was working at the Georgetown University Library. When the plane struck the Twin Towers, people in the library were watching CNN and reading the New York Times, feeling at a loss. This was an event they had never imagined or experienced. Most people didn’t fully comprehend the seriousness of the situation until the news came in that the Pentagon had been hit.

This time, everyone realized that something different was happening. Deborah went to the restroom and began sobbing. She called her mother in Massachusetts to let her know she was safe. She was scared and upset because the weather that day had been so beautiful, yet such a terrifying event occurred so unpredictably. I looked up the distance between Georgetown University Library and the Pentagon, and it’s only about 6.2 kilometers apart. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the helplessness and fear I would have felt if I were there at that time.

“Washington DC was like a ghost town at that time.” She told me. The streets were empty, and there were Humvees on the roads. I could feel that the atmosphere was extremely tense, as everyone didn’t know what the next moment would bring.

Life changed from that day. Deborah told me that since then, it wasn’t uncommon to see official security personnel armed with weapons at key locations in the U.S, such as museums, subway stations, and government facilities.

Deborah knew someone who was at the scene of the attack. He was nearly trapped but, fortunately, he survived. Many years later, Deborah learned about his experience. He didn’t want to discuss what else he went through that day.

This is the first time I’ve come to understand history through a personal conversation. I felt a more specific and tangible connection, sensing the emotions from someone else’s story. When I recall 9/11 in the future, I’ll also remember what Deborah shared about her experience. I hope I can always remember the emotions I felt today and recognize how history flows through each person’s life path.

Jiamin Yu
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