I hadn’t planned on blogging about the 10th anniversary of September 11. What could I add to the plethora of other posts, especially by those in NYC, Washington DC or Pennsylvania that day? I was and still am in the hinterlands of Raleigh, NC. But the more I saw other posts and tweets and Facebook posts, the more I felt compelled to add my small voice to the larger whole. And as Daniel plays with his trains in the kitchen, oblivious to what today signifies, maybe this post is for him.
I was 24 years old, a fresh 24 years old because my birthday is September 9. J and I were less than 3 months from our wedding day on December 1. I was working at the same place I am now somewhat doing the same thing I am now. I was in a meeting when everything began. A stupid, banal, absurd meeting that was ostensibly focused around planning an internal organizational development meeting we were having in late October but had turned into a drama-filled meeting in which we aired our grievances and accused each other of sabotaging each others’ efforts to contribute to the planning.
I knew the meeting was stupid then and in retrospect, it seems even more ridiculous. After we heard the news, we adjourned and for the rest of the day, everyone shuffled around, not knowing what to do. My future in brother-in-law worked in Manhattan, so it took us a while to make sure he was ok.
When I met J and home after work, we ordered pizza and watched the coverage on tv. At the time, we lived close to the airport and that night was eerily quiet. I had never realized before how much noise we absorbed from the airport. I also dreaded hearing any aircraft noise that night because I knew it would mean very, very bad things.
Even though I didn’t live in a major metropolitan area, I was terrified. My only experience with war and terrorism had been the brief Gulf War in 8th grade, and that made war seem quick and easy. That American might could easily overpower any foe.
In the months following, 9/11 hung over us. It felt weird to plan our wedding when there was so much suffering. We had wanted to go to France for our honeymoon, but we decided to go to Asheville instead. These are minor, minor issues compared to what those directly impacted had to deal with. But I was scared.
I have just turned 34. J and I will have been married 10 years this December. We have a beloved 2-year-old after several long years of trying.
I don’t want us ever to forget that day ten years ago because those who gave their lives deserve to be remembered. But I do think about how America has changed, especially when I consider our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, our current economic situation and the increasing pronouncements that America is slipping from its super power status and reduced influence on the global stage. Can that be tied to the impact of 9/11? It’s not that I think the terrorists “won,” but I think that as a nation, we are guilty of knee-jerk reactions instead of taking the long view and planning.
In some ways, I am still scared. I am scared for our nation and our government’s inability to work together to make the hard decisions. I’m scared that it appears we have legislators and citizens who believe that their ideology is more important than saving this country. I’m scared for Daniel and what kind of country he will grow up in.
That’s a bit heavy and political for a gorgeous September day, but for me, remembering is not enough. Reflect. Figure out what we could have done differently. Acknowledge any mistakes. Then move forward. Making this nation strong and proud is the best way we can honor those who lost their lives that day.