What it was like being a 13-year-old New Yorker on 9/11.

Here is what I remember: most of it. The day itself, I mean. The interruption of class, the announcement by the fumbling English teacher, the crowding at the window, the black cloud already invading the skyline.

I remember the snarky, oblivious comments — my own, especially. The teachers herded everyone to the school rooftop to sort us into homerooms and take count of where everyone was.

I remember the first few parents arriving, to our surprise, followed by the announcement that students would not be released from school until a parent — anybody’s parent — signed them out. And then my own parents arrived in a flurry, scooping up as many of the downtown kids as they could find, sweeping us all out to the street, seeing a man with the radio walkie-talkie on his shoulder as if we were in another decade. I remember my father’s van becoming a caravan for other people’s children, the way we dropped them off one by one to grateful parents, how sad I was to watch them leave.


Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

I remember reaching my father’s office on 17th Street and the black-and-white TV they had set up. It was the only black-and-white TV that I had ever seen up close. I remember that nobody knew who would be able to get home that night and that the bridge and tunnel employees gathered around the TV set, forcing smiles for my brother and me.

I remember my mother deciding we should go buy groceries, leaving my brother in the office and taking me back to the street. I remember Gourmet Garage feeling like Disneyland. Not because it was full of adventure, but because the entire store was one giant line wrapped around and around itself. Everyone else had had the same idea: Trucks had already been stopped from entering or leaving Manhattan. Food deliveries would be halted. I remember gathering what we could carry, winding around the aisles, paying, leaving.

It was while we were walking back to the office that the two men appeared. They were standing against a wall, both wearing yellow hard hats and reflective vests over their dirty grey sweatshirts and jeans.

Dark mud caked their hair and their hands, and there was dust in the lines in their faces. They poured water from bottles into their mouths, creating streams of mud down their chins and necks.

I heard myself say, "Ew." It wasn’t from disgust. It was just what I could come up with. Maybe it was to fill the quiet already starting to settle in the mouths of everyone around me. Maybe it was to hear my own voice. Maybe it was to try and make my mother laugh. She did not laugh. She looked startled and then worried. "Sarah," she said, "you know that is blood."

It was not a question. I did not stop walking. I did turn back to look.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

When we got back to the office, my brother was perched on my father’s knee, playing a video game on his computer. I sat on the floor next to my father’s leg while my mother tried to hand out food to the employees in the other room.

I closed my eyes and put my face in the folds of his pants. I could see the faces of the two men like Dust Bowl photographs from history class. The water pouring down their necks. The dark stains on their arms, their chests. For the first time all day, I started to cry.

We spent that first night at my grandmother’s house because she lived uptown. My six-foot-four, 200-something-pound basketball coach father paced the tiny living room for two whole days, watching the news, wringing his hands.

Finally he decided he needed to get back to our apartment. We didn’t know whether the windows had been left open, whether everything we owned was now covered in ash. He announced that he would go downtown, get a change of clothes for each of us, get his bike out of the basement, and bike his way back uptown.

It sounds absurd now. It was two days after the attack. Nobody had any information yet. Nobody was allowed to go downtown. We could have borrowed clothes. I couldn’t stop imagining the towers falling over instead of down, envisioning my home and the entire neighborhood crushed. But my father was sick of pacing.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

It took him hours to get downtown because he had to talk his way through every police barrier, and when he finally arrived, he understood why they had been trying to keep everyone out.

The air was thick and gritty. The only other humans around were police and soldiers. In an effort to reach potential survivors, responders had used bulldozers to stack damaged cars and shove them some blocks north, trying to clear as much rubble as possible. Ash and soot and trash covered everything. Later, my father described it like a science-fiction terrain. With no electricity, there was no elevator or light in the stairwell. The air smelled of burning debris.

My father was shaking by the time he got upstairs. He found a backpack. He put in a change of clothes for each member of the family, made sure the windows were closed. Then he caught sight of my childhood loves: a stuffed animal lion and a baby blanket. He did not know if he would ever be back in our apartment again. He did not know what the future held. He took out his change of clothes and put in the blanket and stuffed lion instead.

He zipped the backpack up as far as he could and left the lion with its head sticking out, so that when my father got on the bike to make his way up through the dust and ash and ghosts, the lion’s head lay perched on his shoulder. He said the only way he made it back uptown was by whispering into the lion’s ears the way he had seen me do as a child. "We’re going to make it," he said over and over. "You and I. We’re going to be OK."

We were not OK for a long time. But memory is a terrible beast. It refuses to obey or sit still.

There are holes that will not fill themselves. It was years before I remembered that my mother severely tore ligaments in her ankle the next week, that for all those weeks of aftermath she was hobbling on crutches, a stupid metaphor for her broken city. Why would my brain decide to forget that detail? Why would I need protection from that fact? My brother’s growing silence, his twitching eyes. My father’s time-bomb anger that we tiptoed around. My mother’s desperate attempts to prevent everything from sinking. These things come back only in pieces. The loft we stayed in for weeks is hazy at best.

Photo by Alex Fuchs/AFP/Getty Images.

But the moment we finally returned to our apartment I remember in crystalline detail. The three cars crushed one on top of the other in line with our front door, like some giant had stacked his Hot Wheels and gotten bored with them and smashed his hands down on top. What I can see most clearly is the white flowers that someone had slipped into the cracks of the shattered windshields. The delirious idea that this was all just a series of car crashes, one on top of another, the grey ash everywhere.

I remember knowing I was lucky. There was so much hurt I was spared.

Yes, I watched the black cloud from my classroom window. Yes, I inhaled the ash and the smell. Yes, I was out of my home for a month. Yes, my parents’ marriage became strained. Yes, I lost my soccer coach. Yes, my brother stopped speaking for months. Yes.

But my mother still tucked me in at night. My father still came home from work. All of my limbs worked to help raise me from the pillow each morning. Nothing was so disrupted that I could not continue being an eighth-grade girl, concerned about homework and the upcoming school dance.

I understand that scars are not always visible; they are often as quiet as a prolonged blink, a clenched fist. There are moments that are etched into the deepest parts of us that never leave.

My mother no longer trusts blue skies. I know that buried things do not always stay buried, that damage is a slow unraveling. Sometimes it feels like we are just accumulations of hurt smashed one on top of another. I collect as many flowers as I can. I never know when I will need to slip them into shattered glass.

Years later, I am unsurprised when I break into tears at the smell of an electrical fire. I understand what happens inside me when I see the lights come on each September.

Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.

But how can I explain the late-night train ride more than a decade later? The 4 a.m. trek home. I was alone on the subway car, until I wasn’t.

He was there, across the car, his grey sweatshirt sleeve pulled down over his hand, the clutched water bottle. The yellow hard hat. The reflective vest. The Dust Bowl eyes. The stains.

If God himself had outstretched a hand to me, I would have been less fazed. I did not breathe. I did not look away. My entire body quaked. He looked at me unblinking. I expected — and there is no way to say this except to say it — I expected that he was there to tell me my time had come. I truly believed this. It made perfect sense. He was my last memory of being a child. Now his presence would mark my last memory of being alive.

I do not know how long we rode together. Not another soul got on or off. The train stopped; the doors opened. He stared at me; I stared at him. The doors closed; the train started again. Finally the train reached my stop. The doors opened, and I shook to my feet. He did not look away. I made my way out to the platform, then reached back to hold open the doors. I held eye contact, waiting to see if he would follow. He did not. I let the doors close, and he disappeared. I have never seen him since.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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