Never Forget

On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in 10th grade chemistry trying my best to listen to our teacher over the din of my classmates holding conversations around me. Our teacher, Mrs. Doe*, while exceedingly bright and very well versed in the subject, was probably too nice to be a high school teacher. As a class we realized this quite early in the school year and, as many high schoolers might, ran roughshod over her.

It might sound like I’m throwing my classmates under the bus and making myself out to be somehow superior but, the truth is, by luck of the draw and Mrs. Doe’s alphabetized seating chart I was in the very front and middle of the classroom. I had nowhere to hide from our teacher who frequently lectured just inches away from me.

So, as I was saying, my classmates were being exceedingly loud. No one but myself and a few other students near the front seemed to be paying attention. Then the teacher from the next classroom, who absolutely commanded respect from every student in our school, burst into our classroom and whispered something into Mrs. Doe’s ear.

She gasped and went white as a sheet. I thought we’d had it. I thought we’d finally pushed her too far and we were about to get properly dressed down for our shenanigans.

Instead, without uttering a word, Mrs. Doe went to the classroom TV and turned it on. She covered her mouth in shock as we witnessed one of the World Trade Center towers gushing smoke.

Naturally, the class went silent for a moment before conversation resumed with speculation about potential causes for the “accident.” The news announcers, while shocked at the scenes unfolding before us, also seemed to be thinking in a similar vein. If anyone was thinking “terrorist attack,” no one said it out loud. Then we saw another plane hit the second tower and it became clear this probably wasn’t accidental.

Much of the rest of the day is a blur in my memory. I remember more about the conversations and the news that nearly every teacher played in lieu of their previously scheduled lesson plan than anything of substance we talked about in school that day. In the very next period, my Algebra 2 teacher remained characteristically on task and taught his planned lesson. While he never explicitly confirmed this, I didn’t get the feeling he wanted to pretend that nothing had happened but rather that the best thing we could do in that moment was to continue moving forward.

After lunch, in history, our beloved history teacher talked to us about what this meant for us as a country. He provided historical context. I can’t recall everything he said but I do remember this as if I’d just heard it yesterday:

I’ll never forget where I was when President Kennedy was shot. I’ve never met anyone alive when President Kennedy was shot that cannot tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing. This moment will be like that for you.

Mr. P*

He was absolutely right. Never forget.


* Note: names changed or shortened to protect the innocent.

The case for changing the voting age to 0

Kelsey Piper writing for Vox:

I don’t expect that enfranchising all children will solve all our problems. There are some very real drawbacks here. I expect that enfranchising everyone will make the electorate less informed on average. I don’t have any idea whether it’d be a win for my preferred policies.

But I think the moral case for enfranchising children overwhelms these concerns. In a democracy, the default ought to be that the people can vote — even if we think they’re not very smart or not very informed or not worthy of the privilege. Much of the promise of democracy is that giving people power over their government is a good thing. Taking that seriously means extending the vote as far as we can.

This an incredibly interesting argument. I had never before considered lowering the voting age to 0 but I must admit the case laid out here by Piper is compelling.

Lessons in Failure

I’ve often failed to try something for fear of failing at it but I was recently reminded of this quote:

“Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Thomas Edison

I feel more ready than ever to chase my dreams and not stop reaching for them even if I fail to achieve them on my first, second, or as many subsequent tries as it takes to satisfy myself that I’ve done everything I possibly could have to achieve them.

Permission to Write Stuff

Brendan Dawes:

I’ve recently seen some tweets expressing the pressure some people feel — understandably — of publishing their thoughts on a blog, fearing what others might say, wondering if it’s good enough to be published on this wonderful thing called the web. I would say treat the web like that big red button of the original Flip camera. Just push it, write something and then publish it. It may not be perfect, but nothing ever is anyway. 

Over the past few years I have written quite a few blog post drafts but not published them. Here’s to hitting publish more on my freshly rebooted blog.

Hello world!

Inspired by this great post by Matthias Ott, I’m rebooting my personal website. For too long I’ve been worried about whether I had anything good to write or unique to contribute (and, honestly, what this site would look like), but as Matthias says:

[D]on’t hesitate to write about little ideas and observations that might seem too small or unimportant to share. We all have our unique perspectives and even the smallest experience is worth sharing. Someone else might be in a similar situation as you or also in a completely different situation. They both might learn something new from reading about your experiences. Each contribution to the community, even the smallest one, is useful and will make a change. So just write. By the way: If you are struggling to find something to write about and feel blocked, remember that there is no such thing as writer‘s block. The more you write and create, the easier it will get.

So, welcome to my new personal website. It’s a work in progress and I’m cool with that because while there may be many like it, this one is mine.