Remembering September 11
It’s almost that day. The day I still can’t talk about without choking up and crying. I cry now as I sit and write about it. Two months after my second son was born. The day all of our lives changed forever. September 11, 2001.
Very, very early that morning, my sister-in-law called. It was one of those night-time calls that everyone dreads. News is never good when the phone wakes you in the middle of the night…or in our case, very early dawn. She was on the East Coast, we were on the West, far from family. She wanted to let us know that my father-in-law hadn’t been at the Pentagon that day. That was the good news.
My husband took the call. He was on early morning duty with my two month old son. I never heard the phone ring, but I still remember the words he said to me as he woke me, holding our new baby.
“Honey, you need to wake up. It’s really bad.”
And I, like almost everyone I imagine, could simply not fathom what I was being told. It couldn’t be happening, but there it was…. Buildings burning, people jumping from the towers, chaos, news that the President was flying around in Air Force One because they weren’t sure where to land. The rumors, the fear, the ultimate chaos. The ground was literally shifting under our collective feet.
I still remember the shocked look on President Bush‘s face when he was told. How terrible must have been his inconceivable surprise to go from gently reading to school kids sitting at his feet, to finding out that the country had been attacked. And attacked so viciously. And now he had to step up…presidency can never be easy. A war-time presidency must be the worst.
My husband went to work later that morning if only to send everyone home. When he came home hours later, I was still sitting in the rocking chair in front of the TV, still in pajamas, still in tears. My older son was not quite three. He doesn’t remember the day at all of course, but I can still see him sitting at the kitchen table on his little booster seat, contentedly playing with play-doh. All day long.
I suppose I must have fed my kids at some point. They were young enough to not go hungry for long, despite the drama that surrounded them. I simply cannot remember. All I can remember is the image of the Towers in flames. Of MSNBC reporters with the smoke and dust surrounding them trying to give the rest of us a sense of just how terrible things were. As if we couldn’t tell from the wake of the disaster.
I think of those who lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Even though that was several decades before I was born, the phrase “The Day that Will Live in Infamy” is something I will never forget. Maybe because for me, it was a historical event long before I was born. Maybe it is easy to just remember great words like that when one isn’t in the middle of the horror. I know that I can’t remember anything of the speech that Bush gave the night of 9/11. Maybe there was nothing as memorable as the Infamy speech, or maybe I, like so many others, were just numb from shock. There was no room for words that day, only for the images caught forever in my mind.
I still cry. I weep for where those attacks have led the nation. Ten years later, we remain embroiled in two wars, one of our choosing and one not. And we live in fear. Fear for our men and women who fight in our wars, both of them. Fear for our freedoms that have been eroded away in the name of security. Fear of others’ religions we don’t understand. Fear of people different than ourselves. Fear of different cultures. Fear that our economy will never recover. Fear.
I also want to believe we have hope. I hope that we raise our children to be inclusive, to understand the world and its complexities and many shades of gray. I hope that instead of encouraging frightening biases, we learn to appreciate that there are extremist fundamentalist religions everywhere, and that those who embrace those views do not represent an entire religion or ethnic group. I hope in our homes and schools we teach our kids about 9/11 and help them to use it as a reason for them to think of ways they can change the world for the better. As ever has been, our children are our future. May we educate them in ways to make our world a place for peace for everyone in all things.
At the site of Ground Zero, there is a tree called “The Survivor Tree.” Burning debris from the falling towers reduced the then 8 foot tall tree into a limbless, charred trunk. But there was a surreal moment when a Parks department employee saw a speck of green from the tree amid the lifeless gray dust and debris. And for the last 10 years, that tree has been nursed back to health. It is now 35 feet tall and a source of wonder for all. The scars from the attack are still evident on the trunk, but it has survived despite everything. It rose as a symbol of hope from the ashes of our fear.
How many of us will write checks tomorrow and not realize it is 9/11 until we write the date on the check? Or maybe never notice at all. I hope that we have not forgotten already, like we forget so many other things in our busy lives. In the wake of the ‘busyness’ of email, texting, blogging, shopping, along with the real things like family and the first week of school, I hope that I don’t get up tomorrow morning and have forgotten what day it is. I want to remember. But I want to remember without fear. I want to remember with hope.
- Letter: Volunteer to remember 9/11 (knoxnews.com)
- A decade later, schools find lessons in 9/11 (sfgate.com)