Petite and dainty, a bright flower nestled in her curly hair.
It was her birthday.
She was all smiles and sunshine, bounding into class with mama’s homemade cupcakes in tow.
Giddy schoolgirls, ooh’ing and ahh’ing.
We commenced with our reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Then, abruptly, the nine o’ clock bell tolled.
A shaky voice came over the loudspeaker.
Would all the teachers come to the office?
Their voices, too, were now shaky.
There had been an accident. No, not an accident. An attack, perhaps?
At nine, the World Trade Center was just as foreign a term as al-Qaeda.
By eleven, they were our second language.
There was no more talk of birthdays.
Celebrations weren’t appropriate while people were trapped in buildings, we were told.
She quietly slipped mama’s homemade cupcakes into her locker.
The sweetness of childhood innocence, too, was shoved into a back corner.
We whispered well wishes across the lunch table, secretly wondering how delicious those cupcakes would have been.
I guess we’ll never know.