In the grand scheme of things, my experiences on 9/11 were nothing grand. Yet, today, on the 10th anniversary, I feel compelled to remember the day and what it was to me, for me. A friend posted on facebook about how kids under the age of 16 really have no concept of the attack, unless, of course, they lost a loved one. While that makes sense, it amazes me because I can’t imagine not knowing, not feeling the weight of this day. I feel it all the time, am reminded all of the time of that day and its impact on our nation – our world.
When I really sit down and think, I don’t remember much from the actual morning of 9/11. While I remember very clearly about first learning of the towers falling, the rest of the day is blur. I was a sophomore at Doane that year and had gotten up to do to a Taebo workout in my dormroom before heading to class. & yes, I remember that detail specifically. I also remember that prior to starting the tape (yes, vhs), my TV was set to CMT. When I finished the routine and switched back to the normal television screen, I did not see a country music video. In fact, what I did see confused me so much, I thought something had gone wrong with my cable. I was watching a war zone; at least, that is it what the smoke filled streets and running people made me think of as I tried to piece together what on earth was going on. After that, I don’t know how it all came together. I’m sure I spent a lot of the day talking with my dormmates and calling my family. I’m guessing I went to class and lunch and supper. I do remember, vaguely, attending a candle-lit vigil that night but somehow it didn’t mend the hole that had been ripped in my sense of America or my sense of security as an American.
A week later I remember going shopping with my roommate, thinking the whole time – we are at war (even though, technically, that hadn’t happened yet)…how important is it that I buy new clothes? But life carries on and so did we, in every small way we could. If my grandparents could come through WWII and go on to have families and lives, I figured we too would find a way to grow up and grow old, even though I also knew that something in the world had changed.
Perhaps the biggest direct impact 9/11 had on my college life came through the sudden spike in fear that my family had about my plans for the following school year, the fall of 2002, when I was set to travel to Africa for an entire semester. They balked at the idea of me traveling abroad, and really, those of us in the Africa semester group did wonder for some time if we’d be allowed to go. My argument to my parents? There are no guarantees, not even here, so why not explore and learn in every way possible? While I can’t say they were ever 100% behind the idea, they let me go.
On the one year anniversary of 9/11, I was in Arusha, Tanzania. I remember sitting in a tiny cafe eating supper that night, listening to the radio broadcasting the news, and all of the sudden, there was W.’s voice, snippets of his speech from the memorial that was taking place halfway around the world. It was surreal to be so far away from home and yet so connected to a day I know I’ll never fully understand.
Ten years later and I feel the same way. I still don’t get it. I don’t know why people hate or why they mistrust and take out their own fears and frustrations on others who have done them no harm. I also don’t know how we can still be fighting wars over this, but that’s not to say that I think those lives lost weren’t worth defending. I do know that I am grateful. Grateful for the brave men and women in our armed services who tackle the most difficult tasks each day – something I would never have the strength or courage to do. Grateful for the education, travel, and experiences I’ve had in the last ten years that have taught me much about the world as well as tolerance and acceptance. Grateful for my loving family, kind husband, beautiful son, and the sweet little one about to join us. For all of these reasons, I am so glad that we have found a way to carry on beyond the terror and fear of that day ten years ago. All that being said, I hope we never forget and never let that gratitude go. We cannot live this life alone. But perhaps we can find a way to live it together with more joy and more peace.