Sadly, today is one that resonates deeply for every American. I, like many of my countrymen and women, woke up this morning to the full coverage of the memorial services at the sites of the attacks that irrevocably shook our nation ten years ago. As the names of those who were lost are read and the ones who loved them so very much remember them, we all give pause to reflect and continue a mourning process that will never fully finish. Unfortunately, while such deep wounds left behind by events such as those of September 11, never completely heal, there will always be scars.
It’s hard to imagine that it’s been a decade, and in reflection, one realizes just how much can change in that time. At the same time, as I watch the ceremonies of this morning and the footage from that morning, in a way it still all feels so fresh, and I wonder if it always will.
Each of us who were alive that day, have flashbulb memories etched permanently in our psyches. Each anniversary of the attacks, and especially this one, they are shared, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s important that we don’t forget, and sharing our experiences and emotions connected with tragic events help us heal as much as we possibly can.
I was twelve at the time, living in rural Tennessee, about as far removed from New York City as you can imagine. At the time my family only knew one person living there, an actress who I idolized to an extent and in whose footsteps I desperately wanted to follow. NYC was exotic, and while out of my own personal childhood fascination, I had a bit better understanding of that place (I knew what the World Trade Center was and roughly what part of the city it was in at least) than the majority of my classmates, it still might as well have been a different country.
That morning was clear and beautiful, much like this one. It was a perfectly ordinary Tuesday morning when my mom and I struck out for school. The only thing out of sorts was that I felt sick as we got closer to school. I would go in to the school where mom worked, my old elementary school, and then catch a ride with a friend and her father over to my school. It was clear as we got in that I wasn’t going to be well enough to go that day so my mother called my father, who was off that day. By the time he came, the first plane had hit the first tower and he had been listening to the coverage on NPR on his way over. The news hadn’t come to the school yet, so we didn’t know until Dad came in saying, “You’ll never believe what just happened…”
Mom sent us on and we listened to the coverage going home and then watched in absolute horror as the second plane hit the second tower, then the third into the pentagon, and the last in Pennsylvania. At twelve, it’s impossible to comprehend something like that. The adults around us couldn’t, so really, how were we? I’ve always been very glad that I spent that day at home with my dad. When I returned to school the next day, my friends all told me about how the entire day was spent shuffling from one television screen in one classroom to the next. I was happy I had spent the day quietly with a parent instead. I only wished Mom had been home with us. I think more than any other, that was a day to be with family.
Ten years later I sit and think about what has changed, just for me personally. I’m now twenty two, I live on my own, I have a college degree, I’m in graduate school, I’ve no longer live where I did at that time, I’ve celebrated wonderful moments and weathered personal setbacks, the list could go on and on. Collectively as a nation, we’ve done much the same. We’ve celebrated, suffered, lost, and in perfect American fashion, done plenty of arguing, but also, we’ve done a lot of healing and regrowth. The dust settled that day, the debris was eventually cleared, children were born, children grew up, and we all carried on.
Although, I don’t know if I will always live in this country, and there are times when I can be very upset by what goes on here, I am still an American, and no matter where I go I will always be one. What I remember most about that day and the weeks and months that followed, was our ability to come together as a nation. I think that’s what is great about the United States, we may not always agree, but we band together when it matters most and move forward.
Today, as an American, I grieve with my nation for all those we lost in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. that day and the families and friends who loved them. They will never be forgotten.