Fourteen Years

It’s hard to process anything when you’re 11. This was an age where my most pressing concern was reading the most books so I could win a contest at school. You don’t focus on tragedy in elementary school, so loss felt abstract. I learned about wars and pain, but it never felt real.
Fourteen years ago, I attended the special class of the day and chattered excitedly with friends about my trip to Pittsburgh for my Build-a-Bear birthday party. It was Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, and I had turned 11. As a child, turning the age of your actual date of birth is a very exciting thing. I had no reason to believe the day wouldn’t be as amazing as imagined.
When I made it back to the classroom, I could tell something was very off. The television was showing the news and discussing some sort of attack on the World Trade Center. My teacher watched nervously before making and taking many phone calls. Unconcerned, I went to the computers to play a game of Oregon Trail.
At one point while the news continued to show the same footage over and over again, I was called to the phone. It was my mother, explaining my party had to be cancelled but we would still celebrate at home. My excitement waned slightly but she promised the trip would be rescheduled.

These our photos with the to-be-mentioned cupcakes and pizza. We really loved Bring It On.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized something terrible had happened. Determined to make the day special for me, my mom planned cupcakes and Chef Boyardee pizza. My friends and I decided to turn on the TV and again the news showed the planes hitting these buildings and slowly my child-brain began to piece things together. The graphic flashed the words ‘Twin Towers’ and I suddenly realized the gravity of the situation. Even at 11, I knew the Twin Towers were a major part of the New York skyline. Just as awareness began to dawn, my mom arrived and swiftly turned off the news, putting my new Bring It On VHS in instead.
We discuss 9/11 under the idea of ‘Never Forget.’ We pledge to remember what happened more than a decade ago. A few hours changed our history as a country. Suddenly threats only imagined became real and fear ran rampant. As the years progressed, life continued to go on with stricter regulations and the knowledge that we are not as safe as we think.
For the first few years after, I couldn’t tell someone my birthday without receiving this look of pity and acknowledgement. Some even apologized, which even as a child I recognized as laughable. My ‘struggle’ of sharing a birthday with a national tragedy is nothing compared to those who lost someone that day or in the aftermath.
Rarely did the day feel as light as you think a birthday should. There was a weight behind September 11. It was no longer just a day when many others and I were born. It felt odd to wake up and be excited for a day that so many had come to dread.
As time went on, I began to notice a curious phenomenon. We, as a country, continued to move on. Don’t get me wrong; it’s essential to move past something and grow, but less and less people talked about the day. Less people gave me the look when learning it was my birthday. Every year, I notice less attention on social media. Brands continue to publish as usual with maybe an obligatory #NeverForget tweet, but other than that it’s business as usual.
Now we (myself included) use that sentiment ironically. We make jokes about the day and while I’m sure we don’t mean it to be offensive, it makes light of something terrible that happened to our country and thousands of families. Can you imagine doing anything like this a few years ago?
I certainly don’t think we’ve forgotten as a nation, but I do think the weight is lifting. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing. Maybe it’s part of the healing process to continue as usual without thinking about the senseless acts that killed thousands of civilians. We don’t want to think about the heroes established and widows made as the Towers began to fall. It’s a part of our past and while we won’t forget, we’re certainly not going to remember in excruciating detail.
Maybe the fact that we do go on is the exact proof that we weren’t broken, only shaken. That the terrorists didn’t win.
It’s easy to remember when things are fresh and for many, 14 years isn’t that long. Clearly so many of us still recall in specific details what happened that fateful morning. My worry is someday we will remember less as younger generations can’t remember at all.
History is fascinating to me, especially World War II. There was a time in my life where I studied Pearl Harbor with an insatiable curiosity. 2,403 Americans were killed with more than 1,100 wounded. It brought us into World War II. FDR proclaimed it “a date which will live in infamy.”
How often do we take time on Dec. 7 to remember Pearl Harbor and all the men and women who lost their lives?
We can examine the differences, primarily the concept of mostly civilians to mostly military personnel, but both were acts of war against people not ready for the fight. Both surprised our country and made us realize we’re not as impenetrable as we like to think.
Whatever the consensus is, I hope we always remember this day in some capacity. Despite the nickname of ‘cursed baby’ from my peers, I view sharing today as a gift because it will always be with me, reminding me not of tragedy but of the strength and bravery of my fellow Americans.
[I wanted to end on a note that made me sound like the president. Booyah.]


I’ve never been the person who hates growing up. Like Nick Miller, I feel I’m turning into the person I was always knew I would become and at almost 25, my behaviors and attitudes are finally acceptable. When you get upset at a fellow 7-year-old for not understanding cursive yet, you know you have a problem.

I mean sure, it’s hard to read a John Green book and not wish you could go back and understand what a gift your teenage years are, but overall I like where I am. Plus I see pictures of high school Chelsea and I’m fine to be away from the time before eyebrows.

 (My friend Allie has always been annoyingly attractive)

Right before the change occurs, I think about my experiences throughout the year and part of me wishes I could relive that age over and over again, particularly my early 20s. Sure they leaned toward the sad and dramatic, but it was also my first taste of adulthood and living my life as I pleased (despite that being a disaster).

The only exception is 23. Leaving 23 was like saying farewell to the crush you wouldn’t let die. It continually let you down and you continually hoped it would get better, until finally you realize it will never change and you must move on.

Entering my mid-20s last year was a whirlwind of adulthood. I went from moving from place to place in Pittsburgh to having a stable apartment. I was more involved at my church and had so many new and great friends. Soon I got a dog and then a new car to replace my darling LeBronda aka my faithful workhorse who pushed herself too hard for her master.

There’s something magical about 24, I think. It’s your first step into your mid-20s but it still feels young and fun. You’re in this space where you’re expected to be an adult but there’s a leeway given with youth. More is expected because you’re two years out of college, but with that comes a better understanding of what it means to grow up. I am going to miss 24.

In the tradition of kids today, I (with the help of my BFF Sam) dubbed my 25th year of life as #QuarterLifeChelsea. This serves as the general theme for September (I have a lot of celebrations planned) as well as how I want to live during year 25. Luckily, I don’t plan to dye my hair any bizarre colors or up and quit my job (been there, done that), but I do plan to live a little recklessly.

As I’ve grown up, God has taken me from the scared person I was to who I am now and shown me I can do great things because I have Him. Rather than live in my safety bubble away from the world, I can now fully embrace wherever life takes me because I know it will work out exactly the way it’s supposed to, for better or worse. At 25, I want to live as God calls me, not as I see fit.

I can reflect on the follies of my youth and look at my decisions and wish I had been smarter or listened to my mother more, but ultimately that past brought me to where I am as an almost 25-year-old. I can break down the birthday celebrations and let downs and the years where I could’ve done more with my life, but questioning that is doubting the plan for my life. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and I plan to embrace every second of that.

Hopefully you’re my friend and will help me celebrate #QuarterLifeChelsea from now until I forget to use the hashtag. And if we’re not friends, that’s silly.