September 11th. I hate this day. This is our JFK. Our moon landing. King. RFK. Watergate. Our “where were you moment?”
Some day in the future I will have to teach my kids about September 11, 2001. I can handle the sex talk. I can handle the gay talk. Abortion. Welfare. Money. What I can’t begin to figure out is how the hell to explain to my kids September 11th? How do I relay the fear we all felt? How do I describe the uncertainty? How do I make them understand that my heart still drops whenever I see those towers fall? How do I describe the anger I feel about this day? How do I explain to them 2996 people died because terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into buildings?
The day 343 NYC firefighters died. How do I explain the day so many people unknowingly said their last good byes. As I stood in my apartment, watching tv and looking at the fiery hole in the north tower I thought to myself “Oh my god. All those people. Their families.” I thought about how many members of my own family would be devastated by the lost of just one of us. Then I multiplied that but all those people. The grief was overwhelming. All those people.
Most of all I can’t explain this without getting angry. Angry at all the lives lost. Angry at the subsequent wars. Angry at Islam. Angry my friends had to fight in those wars. Angry at the cleanup. The truthers. The lack of memorial for so many years. Lack of care for the workers who cleaned up Ground Zero. Lack of care for our soldiers coming home.
In September of 2002, my husband and I were at a concert. We had general admission tickets so we were in line in the early afternoon to ensure good seats. Talk in line naturally went to the events of the previous year. Some clueless douche tried to share his story of where he was that day. In his dorm, hundreds of miles away. No where near the destruction. A New Yorker was in line. He kindly told the ass to stfu. He was still angry. Often times I think about him and wonder if he is still as angry as me.
I, too, was in Iowa, college. Hundreds of miles away. “Safe” from any danger. But as they grounded all the planes and more planes got hijacked. It was hard not to feel a little scared. Our world had changed. Snap. Just like that.
“A plane flew into the World Trade Center.”
“On purpose?” It sounds so silly now. But as my husband and I watched the tv, we had no clue what was going on. I had to get to class so I continued to get ready.
“Holy shit!! Another plane.” From the bathroom I had no idea what this meant. I have sadly seen that plane fly into the south tower replay over and over. I find myself unable to look away. And at the point of impact. My chest aches.
I was lucky. I had to get to class. I didn’t see any of the people jumping from the towers. My husband wasn’t so lucky.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?” I call my husband from the car as I am driving to class. I am listening to Peter Jennings on the radio as he and his reporter near Ground Zero try to describe the South tower collapsing.
“It’s gone. It fell. Just gone.”
My first class was clueless. The professor had no clue and those of us who did, had no god damn idea what was going on so we didn’t say anything. My next class had a professor from New York. She knew her family was safe but was having trouble imagining the chaos going on in her city. Some students found out then what had happened. After class, all the students were on their phones. A rare sight at the time. Hungry for information. WTF is going on? For the next few weeks, the tvs on campus stayed tuned in the 24 hour news channels and NYC began their search and rescue. Every glimpse of the tv you got, you hoped for good news. We needed it. We needed to see some hope. Needed one of those missing posters with moms, dads, sisters, boyfriends, to make it home. The initial estimates of number dead was close to 10,000. It felt like a strange relief that the number was only 2996. All those people.
9-11 marked a turning point in my life. I wasn’t the same person after that. The world felt different. Life felt shorter. America seemed sadder. 9-11 is the reason I always kiss and hug my husband good-bye every time we part. EVERY.TIME. My kids too of course, but they don’t know the reason why. It could be the last time we see each other. Morbid, I know. But I think 9-11 had that affect on a lot of people.
On this day, we remember all those who lost their lives, lost loved ones, all the emergency workers who worked to save lives and gave their lives. Most of all we remember the 2996. May they be at peace.
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