Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Couldn't Forget, Not Even If I Tried

This week, like everyone else who remembers 9/11, I had multiple conversations about where I was that day, what I remember about it, and what I think that day meant in the context of my life and the lives of everyone else. Ten years is a long time. Ten years goes by in the blink of an eye.

When you're 17 years old, you think you understand the way the world works. You boldly purport to know who you are, where you are from, and how these things fit into the world around you. At 17, you're old enough to be aware, but far too young to understand.

The morning of September 11, 2001, began no differently than any other day before it.  I was a senior in high school and I had a meeting before school about Junior Miss.  I was wearing an empire-waisted white dress with blue flowers and a white cardigan. I got up, got dressed, and went to school, just like every other day. Little did we all know, today was going to change everything.  Initially, I thought it was a joke.  While walking from the meeting to homeroom, Andrew McNamara had stopped me outside to tell me the news. We both joked that it must be some moron who couldn't fly.  Thirty seconds later, as I watched the second plane hit,  it would become stunningly clear that this was no joke.

My world, the one I inhabited, was undisturbed. No one I knew was suddenly gone. No buildings I frequented had been attacked. The skyline in my hometown remained the same. I had never flown prior to 9/11, so not even that changed for me. Outwardly, everything in my world was the same. But something was very different. It's nearly impossible to put into words.  I remember going from class to class that day, watching the coverage. This continued for a few days, until one day when everything went back to normal.

This sounds silly, but 9/11 was the first time I can really remember being truly proud to be an American. It was also the first time I realized that the world might be a dangerous place. The idyllic world of my childhood had been shattered in a matter of minutes. But I think we are all better for the experience.

Ten years later and this thought crosses my mind: One day, Beckett may very well ask me where I was on 9/11. That day is my generation's Pearl Harbor, Kennedy assassination, moon landing, Challenger explosion.  Ten years later and it's still hard to process exactly what happened, exactly what was lost, and exactly what has changed. To just say "everything" doesn't seem like enough.

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