My latest issue of Time came. It was a tribute, a reflection to 9/11. I have to admit I had trouble reading it. I wanted to. I did. I looked at each of the faces in each of the large, black and white photos. I remembered many of those faces, those stories from 9/11. But the larger essays, I just couldn't. I think I've tried to pretend that this attack that took place across the country from me 10-years-ago was something that didn't really affect me. But it really did. Yes, no one I knew and loved died in the either of the Towers or in that field in Pennsylvania nor where they near the Pentagon, but it was my country and reading through Time made me realize how much I really didn't like seeing and knowing this happened to my people. Or to any people. Although I seem to be able to stomach atrocities that happen in other countries easier.
I'm pretty open with my boys about tragedy. We read the morning newspaper together and talk about the pictures and the articles, but I found myself hiding this issue of Time from them. I just didn't want them to feel scared or vulnerable.
My cousin Paula visited us this summer. I hadn't seen her since my wedding in 1999. Since then a lot has happened, and one of those happenings was her experience of being a survivor of 9/11. She was in the basement when the first plane hit. She heard the sound. She saw the second plane hit. She was there. All those clips I saw on the news, she was experiencing first hand. Her apartment was so close to the Towers that she and her husband could not go home. Paula recounted her story for me this summer as we sat in my kids' playroom, ironic location. We sat, her on the couch, me on the chair. I listened. I knew this was her experience, but I had never heard it from her mouth. And actually she is the first person that I've known, met, or talked to in person who was there...the first person in 10 years.
Maybe that is why I'm more sensitive? It opened it all back up again? Or is it just knowing that it has been 10 years. It should not have been that long, right? And at the same time, since it has been that long, why is it a topic I avoid?
I feel like I would be offended if a movie was ever made of the attack. I don't think I would go see it. Is that how Holocaust survivors feel about WWII movies? Is that how the veterans of Pearl Harbor felt when Hollywood made that catastrophe into a romance flick?
Memorials don't create this aversion in me. When my family went to D.C. (1989)and stood silently before the Vietnam Memorial, I know my father was not offended. I saw with my eyes how it moved him.
When I went to Dachau it seemed reflective, respectful, and honoring. Not an easy experience, but one that I'm grateful I have had.
Someday I will take my sons to Ground Zero. I will proudly tell of the heroes and of the brotherhood that was exhibited through this national tragedy.
But for now, I'm just not ready.
9/11 is on a Sunday this year, and I would be very offended if I were to go to church this Sunday and nothing was said, no mention was given, no prayers spoken. I do expect something.
So, where were you? I was 23-years-old, shy of 24 by one week. I was starting my third year of teaching at a middle school. I was driving to work, listening to Z100 when the very obnoxious DJ said something horrifying. I thought it was a crude joke, but the more he talked the more I realized this was for real. I sat in my car in the school parking lot, stunned. I looked around me and all the teachers were just sitting, listening to their radios. We made eye contact and got out of our vehicles, lunch bags in hand. We checked to make sure we were all hearing the same thing.
We walked numbly to our classrooms and each of us turned on the televisions that our school had installed for Ch. 1 News. There it was. The visual of what was happening, playing out before us in real time. I remember the horror as the news reporter shouted that the second tower had been hit. We had students on buses coming to school, unaware. They would be in our rooms in less than a 1/2 hour. What were we supposed to do? Send them home? Watch the news all day? Teach? Our principal called an emergency staff meeting and made the decision that we would address the topic, that during 1st period students could watch the news if teachers chose, but that we would press on and teach as if this was any normal day.
I can't believe that is what we did. I still remember a student named Alex very frustrated that I would not let his class watch the news, but instead made the students review their literary elements. I think this was a coping mechanism. Sometimes I think it was wrong that we acted like everything was normal, but then I try and imagine what a day with 7th graders would have been like watching the news for seven periods straight. That seems like that would have been wrong too.
I remember thinking I couldn't wait to get home and get to my husband, process it all.
After so many days of this, it was all too much, and we all chose to stop watching the replay events. We pushed the normal button and trudged on. Of course, 9/11 never ceased to be the underlining theme of that year (and decade to follow), all the events in the world could be traced back to that moment. Even though we pushed the normal button, normal had changed. Our worldview had been altered.
Where am I now? Then I was 23, no kids, living in community with other young adults, going and doing whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and working full-time.
Now, I no longer live in the metro-area. I have returned to the farm I grew up on. I have three young boys. I am the CEO of my home. I've written a book. I have deep, meaningful relationships, I love my church community of others who are seeking God's truth in their lives, and I have a list of goals and dreams for my life that I see the foundations of being built. Also, I see a world that is hugely connected to one another, a world where if one thing happens in one country it always affects another and another and another. Decision and action should always be considered in length.
So, where were you and where are you now?