For the last eleven years, September 11th has caused me grief. Nothing like it had happened in my lifetime and I was unprepared for the depth of feeling the incident caused.
My daughter was a brand new kindergartener. My son was two months old. My girl was in the afternoon session of school, so I left her sitting on my bed next to the baby who was in his pumpkin seat while I went in to take a shower. I was only in there for about three minutes when she started pounding on the door. It frustrated me, because all I wanted was ten minutes of peace and hot water. I’m sure I snapped at her when I said “what??” “Grammy is on the phone, she said you need to get out, something bad has happened somewhere.” So I rinsed my hair as quickly as I could and got out. Those few steps between my bathroom and my bedroom tv, before I knew what had happened, were the last truly secure moments of my life.
Like everyone else, I thought it was an accident. Then I SAW the second plane hit the second tower. I saw it with my own eyes and I knew that nothing would ever be the same again. This was even worse than Pearl Harbor, because although that was a sneak attack, at least the Japanese had attacked fighting men. These people attacked civilians. There were children on those planes. We found out later that there was a little girl on one of them who was headed for her first trip to Disney World. Happy, excited, innocent. Terrified, confused, pain, death. The juxtaposition of what should have been to what actually WAS, was almost more than I could process.
The morning it happened, I watched it all unfold on tv like everyone else. I sent my daughter into her room to play. I held my baby. I talked to friends on the phone. Then, another plane into the Pentagon. The brain of our military. In my mind, we were officially at war. My husband was at work forty miles away. We talked on the phone. Everyone in his office was watching it on tv. Then, there was news that there was another plane in the Cleveland area that was not responding. I live in southwestern Ohio. That was too close for comfort for me. Then, a little while later, news came that the plane from Ohio had gone down in Pennsylvania. I called my husband and begged him to come home before he wasn’t able to get there. He was already on his way out the door. In our minds, we were at war and our enemy would have no hesitation in killing civilians, or women, or children.
We watched tv for the rest of the day and nothing else happened. We were ready to go donate blood for the survivors, but there wasn’t the influx of survivors everyone hoped for. The buildings came down. Thousands of people died. President Bush made a wonderful speech that gave us hope for revenge, or retaliation or at least some action against the brutes who would attack civilians who were just trying to go to work. It was the worst day ever. I can’t wax more poetic about it, because it was just the worst thing ever.
In the days that followed, everyone watched tv. We waited for the other shoe to drop. Is this it? Was that all they had? Are they done? Or are they going to do the horrible things like attack schools and malls and football games like they threatened to do. The sky was so blue and so quiet. The only air traffic for a week or so were military aircraft patrolling. How could the sky and the weather be so beautiful when something so horrible had just happened? Wasn’t war supposed to be black and white like all the old WWII movies? Did the people in London right before the Blitz look up and see a blue sky? Did the people in Dresden see sunshine and birds before they were blown away? What about Japan, at the end. Were the flowers blooming in color? Apparently, because we were at war and everything looked beautiful.
I had to explain to my five-year old daughter what had happened. I had to tell her that if anything bad happened while she was at school, to do exactly what the teachers told her to do and wait for me. I would be there to get her if I had to walk with the baby strapped to my back. I had to teach my five-year old daughter what it meant to be brave, what it meant to soldier on in the face of fear, what it meant to be an American. We don’t cower. We don’t run and hide. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we tip our chins to the sun, we stand up straight and we go on with what needs to be done. We put a black ribbon on our flag pole for a while, and then we take it off and let Old Glory fly free and proud. We take care of one another and we NEVER FORGET.
So as another September 11th comes tomorrow, I WILL watch the footage on tv. I WILL have my kids watch it. We WILL talk about what happened and who did it and why. I am not afraid of the truth. I am not afraid of what happened. It still makes me sad though, and although it may be politically incorrect, it still makes me angry. The heat of the slow burn in my chest when I see those planes hit those buildings, when I see my fellow Americans leap to their deaths rather than burn, when I see office workers covered with dust and tear streaks down their faces, when I picture my innocent babies sitting on my bed and remember that I realized that their lives would be forever changed for the worse, when I remember all those brave souls who ran in to save people when everyone else was running out and when I remember President Bush promising that we would come after the people who knocked down those buildings, that slow burn I feel kind of shocks me with its intensity. I haven’t forgotten how I felt. I haven’t forgotten all those nameless innocents who died that day because of religious radicals. I have not forgotten how we all came together in the days and months following. I have forgotten none of it, and to be completely honest, I haven’t forgiven it either. And I never will.
Rest in peace, and God Bless this beautiful country of ours.
Be kind to one another.