Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: Ten Years Later

I couldn't not post on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It is still such a vivid memory for me, as I'm sure it is for any American who was alive that day. Naturally, I remember where I was - I was sitting in my 8th grade Spanish class. I remember not knowing exactly what the World Trade Center was or why everyone was talking about it. I remember wondering what went so wrong that a plane would hit a building and why none of the teachers were saying anything to us. After the second plane hit, the hallways were abuzz with panicked discussions and suspicions. Everyone assumed now that it was an attack, and there was mention of the Pentagon and the Capitol. That's when I started getting seriously concerned. I thought of the former nuclear power plants not too far away in Oak Ridge, TN, and couldn't help but think, how far is this going to go? Some kids just wanted to know if school was going to let out early, which it did. As soon as I came home - to an empty house - I turned on CNN and caught up on what I had been missing. In complete shock, I was transfixed for hours. I know I called my parents, but I don't remember what I said. I don't even remember what happened the rest of the evening. For the first time, I realized that my country was not as invulnerable as I had been led to believe, and that was the most disconcerting thing I felt all day.

Now, as I watch and listen to all the tributes to that day, I still can't believe it happened. And what I really can't grasp is that there are children now who have no recollection of this happening outside of their history classes. Even more, that my own children will only view this event as a part of history, not as the real, unbelievable and horrific tragedy that it was to us. It's hard for me to comprehend that I would ever see something like this happen in my lifetime, and I wasn't even there.

The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote for a previous blog about those who leapt from the towers that day:

"As far as uncomfortable topics go, I think suicide probably tops the list. I watched a documentary about a month ago on the suicide "jumpers" of 9/11 who leapt out of the burning towers in desperation and resignation; the video was inspired by an article in Esquire that was based on the controversial photograph of the Falling Man that circulated widely after 9/11. Interestingly enough, the deaths of the jumpers were not documented as suicides or even jumps but as accidental deaths. I remember watching the live media coverage on that day and seeing some of the jumpers leap to their fates (before the media was instructed not to show them anymore). Those images haunt my memory more than anything else I saw that day - more than the limbless people, more than the blood, more than the fire, and more than the final collapse of the tallest towers in the world. I remember how I felt - it was a bizarre mixture of horror, sorrow, and paralyzing helplessness. It's hard enough to comprehend suicide abstractly, but being forced to face it directly - that's something else entirely."

Despite all the tragedy of that day, there was also an unparalleled resolve. When I think of modern-day heroes, I think of the firefighters and policemen of New York who risked their lives many times over to save others, I think of the passengers on United Airlines flight 93 who overtook the hijackers and crashed the plane to prevent another attack, and I think of the individual New Yorkers who came together - despite differences in race, religion and class - to help their fellow citizens.

I can't pretend to know what it feels like to have experienced 9/11 firsthand, and I would never presume to understand the grief that the victims' families have gone through. All I have to offer is my own perspective and memories of that day.

Here are some others:
Chicago Magazine: "9/11 and Social Media" (via @MNPR)
KDWB Remembers 9/11
The Wall Street Journal: "The Public Remembers"

I would love to hear yours. Please feel free to comment with your own memories of 9/11.

May God bless all those involved on that day and every day since.

<3 Mrs. G

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