Millions of words have been written about September 11, 2001. Millions more will be written about it in the years to come. I have never added my words to those, because I wasn't in New York, Washington, or Pennsylvania. I haven't spent the last 10 years mourning someone I knew personally who was killed. In fact, I've spent the past 10 years trying to avoid thinking about September 11, 2001. This year I decided to grow up and pay it a few words of respect and remembrance.
My memory of the day:
On September 11, 2001, I was a junior in college at Tulane University. On Tuesdays, I started my morning with a particularly painful biochemistry class in Newcomb Hall, with 15 other crazy biology majors. When someone came down the hall and popped in the room to say 2 planes had crashed in New York, I don't recall being upset, or even really surprised. It was one of those tragedies that sometimes happens. I think I assumed they crashed into one another. I was 20, life was infinite. When someone popped in shortly after to say a plane had crashed into the Pentagon, it was more startling. Especially when one of the girls in the class jumped up and said, "My dad works at the Pentagon, I need to go." The biochemistry professor, true to form, seemed irritated at the interruptions. A few moments later someone came in to say classes had been canceled for the morning. I rushed back to the dorms, calling Vinny on the way to let him know classes were canceled and I joined him at his apartment.
Then we sat on the sofa, glued to the news, and I just remember feeling like everything I thought about the world was crumbling around me. I couldn't comprehend the level of hatred, the level of distress, the level of sadness. It was all just more than I could handle. I remember how quiet it was during those next few days, with no planes in the sky. And I remember being so scared when I heard a fighter jet break that silence one day, and I just stood there and waited for the explosions.
Then I spent the next 9 years trying to move on. Trying to pretend like everything was fine. When Vinny and I visited New York in 2007, I stayed on the bus when we passed the World Trade Center site, because I knew it would upset me.
I was listening to NPR on the radio the other day and they had a piece from the series called story corps. (Here is the link to the site) In general they record short stories from peoples lives, told to someone they know in a little mobile booth, and they archive the stories as a way to preserve history. The news piece was talking about how they have over 1200 recordings pertaining to September 11, 2001, and they played a few of them on the air.
Suddenly, it struck me that I needed to take a few moments to remember. That it was selfish and egotistical not to. And I sat on the story corp website and listened to story after story, with tears streaming down my face. Vinny kept asking me why I was upsetting myself and that I should stop. But I felt like I needed to remember every life that was lost; those who died in the attacks themselves, those who died in the days after trying to save lives, those who died years later from various exposures, those who were hurt in racially profiled retaliatory hate crimes, the innocent lives lost overseas in the search for the guilty, the military lives lost in the search for justice and safety, and the lives of all of their loved ones, that will never be the same again.
I appreciate the reminder to cherish what I have in life. I hold Bella a little closer. I call my family more often. I remember to say 'I love you.'
I know I owe it to my daughter to teach her about this part of history. Not just the hatred that led up to the attacks, but the love and community that we found as a country in the days after. I haven't found the words yet. But I'm sure someday I will. I'm glad that movements like Story Corp are preserving the memories of these people, so that someday Bella can hear about them herself, from the people who knew them best.