Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Little Boy Gone on 9/11

Updated 9/11/16:  Fifteen years ago, I could never have guessed how much this little boy would shape a big part of my life. I think about him often. I hope that I always do. 

Every September 11, I post this essay again. It's not much. It's just my small contribution to ensuring another part of the world never, ever lets the horrifying events of that day and how they affected not just airplanes and landmark buildings, but very real human beings, slip into a hazy, muddled memory. 

I made a promise to myself and to the memory of this little boy that I would never forget him. He would be a grown man now, if only September 11, 2001 had happened the way that it should. 

This is Rodney Dickens. 

Rodney was only 11 years old when he lost his life on September 11, 2001. And his will forever be the face I see when I think of that terrible day.

When photos started streaming across the TV screen in the hours after the terrorist attack, his little face gripped me. I was standing in my bedroom, and I remember pulling a pillow to my chest and sitting down.  

As a mother whose kids were close to Rodney's age, I couldn’t stop the barrage of thoughts running through my head. "Who was with this little boy? Was he traveling alone?" 

My little boys had already flown alone as a pair several times.

My heart ached when I wondered if he knew what was about to happen; that his life was about to come to an unreasonable end. Did anyone put their arms around him, or did he face those final moments as alone as any human being could ever be? 

Did he cry? Was he afraid? Did anyone hold his hand? Did he pray for God to rescue him? Did he call out for his mom and dad? Did he have dreams, goals, plans for his future? Was he even old enough to begin dreaming of what he would do when he was all grown up?

When I researched to find the name that belonged to this sweet little boy, I learned that Rodney was, indeed, traveling without his parents; he was with his classmates. 

Again, parental instincts crept in and I sobbed thinking about his mother and his father. Were they watching as this all happened? How devastatingly helpless must have been the feeling, knowing that they were powerless to protect their child from the wickedness of these terrorists. I have had nightmares about Rodney crying out for his mother in the seconds before his life was brutally stolen away on what should have been a day filled with joy.

And then my emotions turned to rage. Correlations between this precious, innocent child and my own children filled me with so much anger, knowing that the terrorists would not have cared if my boys were on that plane. Regard for cherished human life was tossed aside like an unwanted object by those... I'm sorry, I cannot use the word "people." In fact, I don't have any other word for them besides terrorists. I believe that nothing appropriate even exists in the English language.

As I write this, my arms are covered in goose bumps. My heart lurches again. My eyes are filled with tears. This child. This sweet-faced little boy lost his life before he even had a chance to begin living.

Rodney, I never knew you. But I love you. With all of my heart, I love you.

And as long as I live, you will never be forgotten.

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