Sunday, September 11, 2011
I was sound asleep in my bed, or at least trying to be. One of my roommates had already departed for class, and the other was clunking around in the bathroom, oblivious to the fact that I was still in bed. I dozed off as best as I could, until she popped into my room, a worried look on her face, and the phone in her hands. It was for me.
"Hello?" I said groggily.
"Hey, it's me," my newly minted ex-boyfriend said. "Turn on your TV. Now."
"Why?" I growled.
"Just do it," he said.
"I'm already doing it." I mumbled irritatedly, stumbling into the living room. Even though the breakup was mostly mutual, it was still hard to hear his voice and know that we were finished. Leela already had the TV on, sound muted with closed captioning running as always, her lips moving along as she read the words aloud softly.
I nearly dropped the phone as my hand flew to mouth.
"Holy f*ck," I said. "What happened?"
That is the question we all asked for hours, days, weeks, months, and even years later.
My roommates and I sat numbly around the television as the chaos unfolded. One tower fell, then the second. We cried silently as we watched footage of people jumping from the higher floors, determined to let their end be of their own choosing. We stumbled through the day in a fog, seeking the comfort of routine as we went to class. One professor asked us gently if we wanted him to teach, if it would help, but despite our best efforts, the lecture dissolved into nothing. One girl left the room in tears and we flipped the TV back on, desperate for more information.
I have not personally met or known someone who lost a loved one in the 9/11 attacks, but I have yet to meet a person who was not affected by those attacks in some way. Ten years later, the horror and shock have dissipated. The grief is gone, replaced by a dull ache for things long gone. Those of us old enough to understand what happened that day live with one eye over our shoulder. We live in fear of each other, of people different from us. We live a modern day witch hunt. We live in an age when security is tightened with each passing day, in an effort to keep up safe. I mourn the fact that my children will never bear witness to some of the things I experienced as a child because they are now deemed threats to our safety. They will become the "I walked two miles in the snow, uphill, both ways" stories of my generation. Those stories start with "Before 9/11..."
Is that what it was like when Jesus walked the earth? Did they tell stories the same way we do now? "I remember, before Jesus died..." Or how about Pearl Harbor? Or when the atomic bomb dropped? Or when the plague swept through the Europe? Or the Inquisition? It seems that we as a species mark our timelines with milestones of horror. We are forever comparing our lives to before and after that moment when the world stopped spinning and we all become acutely aware of our mortality and the value of life. It's almost as if we consider these events to be the passage into adulthood, that moment when we lose our innocence and awaken to the brutality of the world. It makes me wonder what event will transpire in my daughter's lifetime to precipitate the loss of her innocence. What kind of brutal world will she wake up to?
As we all take time to remember this day in our past, I pray for a better tomorrow.