Saturday, September 10, 2011


This post has been bouncing around in my head for days, really weeks. I've know I had something to say about the 10th anniversary of September 11th, 2001...I just didn't know what it was. I'm not sure I do even now, so we'll just see what comes out.

I've had several conversations with (work) clients in the last week about 9/11. One of those was with a family who has 3 kids ranging in age from 10 to 16. None of them, of course, remembers 9/11. The youngest, though, is apparently interested and has searched some info. So, we were talking about it, you know, just basic info (how many planes, where they went down, etc...) and I was struck by the realization that to these kids, 9/11 is just like the assassination of Kennedy is to me, or Pearl Harbor is to my mom.

9/11 is one of those monumental events that I will always remember. I know - just like you probably do - exactly where I was when I heard of the first, second, third, and then fourth planes going down. I watched the news, first in disbelief, then simply astounded and horrified, for days. It seemed like there was nothing else I could do. It was a moment where, as a country, we were united - albeit in horror and sadness and anger. We lost our innocence and the belief in our safety. It was such a common experience.

Yet to these kids, it's just something that happened. I remember feeling completely disconnected from the events of Pearl Harbor, or Kennedy's assassination, or any number of things I read about it my school history books. I had a conversation with my grandmother one time about the Japanese internment camps that were set up in the US during WWII. I asked my grandmother why they had allowed the internment camps to exist (she replied that that's just how things were then - still not a really a satisfactory answer, btw). I was totally interested in them, but I never stopped to think about what that time felt like, personally, for my grandmother - the fear that existed. I am afraid that my children will feel that way, too, about 9/11. Because I can already see that children do feel that way...there is a general curiosity but no emotional connection.

So I wonder... what can I do to make 9/11 real for my children. Or should I. I know they will (unfortunately) have events such as this that happen during their lifetimes that will teach them this same lesson. Should I allow them to learn of the events, without having to experience the emotions and grief that those of us who do remember carry with us. History isn't comprised of things that just happened. History is comprised of things that happened to people. And this, this horrible day, happened to all of us.

And yet 9/11 wasn't completely a common experience. I wasn't there. No one I know was there. I didn't lose anyone I love. And that, I think, is the reason I have had such a difficult time articulating this post. Some part of me has felt like I don't have the right to still be affected by what happened that day. My loss was not nearly as profound as the losses of those who were there. The loss of life...the loss of friends and family and co-workers...the intense loss of feeling secure and safe in your home/city... But, still I grieve and am sad for all we all lost that day. And for all those who we have lost since.

Today's lesson - a wise woman once told me "pain is pain". There are no gradations of pain and no person's pain is more important than another's. Pain is pain. 9/11 left us with a collective experience, and a collective pain. People of NYC, DC, and PA, please know that we stand with you. Your pain is our pain and though life continues, we continue to grieve with you. Sending love and light to those who need it today.


Amanda said...

I was working in DC when the pentagon was hit. I felt it hit. Like an earthquake. No one knew where to run or if we should run. There was no "safe" place. I couldn't take the metro home. My car was locked down at another metro station. Dan couldn't get to me. He worked by the airport and was suddenly in "lock down". There were no roads in and no roads out. The street where I worked, always busy, suddenly fell still. We were there standing together. Looking toward the sky. Huddled, yet feeling completely alone. My dad was sitting on an airplane awaiting take off in AZ. Thank goodness he wasn't on one of those planes. But the fear and sadness I suddenly felt is as real today as it was 10 years ago. It is my Pearl Harbor, my Kennedy Assassination. I hope my children only read about such uncertainty and never live it. My husband lost coworkers at the Pentagon and Fraternity Brothers in the Towers. This is a day that shall live in infamy to me.

Chickenpig said...

You managed to sum up my feelings about 9/11 exactly. It was a monumental even for all of us who experienced it, but for those who were too young, it's just another event in the past.

I, personally don't think I need, or want, to make 9/11 'real' for my children. I will never really understand what Kennedy's assassination meant to my mom, I just know it was incredibly important, and that's enough.

As a historian, I think that there are so many things in history that are short changed. I feel the loss of all the passengers on the Lusitania when I read through the first hand accounts, the pain comes up to me from the past just as strongly as 9/11. Thousands of innocent men, women, and children died on that ship, but who remembers the date now?