Last night my husband I were talking about upcoming dates (To those of you that are military, do you find that this happens often? It seems like at least once a week my husband comes home with dates to talk about. Lately they’ve been good dates…something new and different for us!), when I interrupted him, “Is tomorrow September 11th?” He looked at the calendar, “Yes.” This led to a discussion on how each year the remembrance seems to weaken, the news stories are shortened, and only a few channels are showing footage from that day.
When I was teaching I would always have my students write about their memories from that day, and I would share my own. My most recent year of teaching, the freshman students wrote about how they were affected…in kindergarten and preschool (wow!). Amazingly, they did have actual memories of this day: most of them are military, and wrote about how their schools and bases went into lock down, and parents who were off-base were unable to get back onto base to reach their children. That is a fear I hope to never feel.
For those of you that do not know me, I grew up in a relatively small town outside of Chicago. It has since grown to be a rather large town, but it was small when I was there. I was a senior in high school, and was in Senora Auld’s Spanish IV class. I remember that we were sitting in groupings of four, doing quiet work, when she let out a gasp from her computer, and then an “Oh my god.” She jumped up and turned the television on, and told us to stop what we were doing. We watched the second plane hit the second tower and were equally stunned, and confused. My previous blog I mentioned that most high school students aren’t thinking “big picture” yet, and this was that way for me. I didn’t, couldn’t, comprehend the magnitude of what was happening.
After that period was over, I met my best friend in the hallway and we walked to our next class together. Along the way, we ran into one of my younger cousins, who I have always thought to be more of a brother than a cousin. He was completely distraught, in tears, and I ran to him. Through deep breaths, he told me how worried he was about our older cousin who lived in Manhattan, and about my father, who was a trader at the Chicago Board of Trade. I was worried about the same things, but he was thinking big picture. I took him down to the office to speak with our guidance counselor, and found that she wasn’t in her office. I will never forget the secretary in there, and how inconsiderate she was towards my cousin, still visibly upset, and myself. I kept telling her that he needed to talk to someone, and she could not have been more insensitive, saying that if I didn’t change my tone of voice she wasn’t going to give us a pass back to class. I couldn’t believe it; had she not seen what just happened? She didn’t know anything about us; what if we would have known someone directly affected? I think maybe that woman helped me to be as compassionate as I am now, because the sadness that fills my stomach as I type this is tangible.
I was a bit of a rebel in high school, so I had a booklet of passes in my locker. I wrote us each a pass back to class, signed it illegibly, and walked my cousin to his room. We later learned that our cousin was safe, my father was safe (after a pretty serious lock-down as well), and that our lives were seemingly not directly affected. But that isn’t the truth is it? Everyone’s lives were directly affected that day, but just on different levels. We didn’t feel the pain of losing a loved one, but we wept along with the rest of the country for those who did.
I know that September 11th will always be a day spoken of in history, like how our parents and grandparents speak of the JFK assassination. We will always remember where we were when we first saw, when we first heard. I hope that we can honor those who lost their lives that day by ensuring that the story is told to our children, to our grandchildren. It must never be forgotten…