Saturday, September 10, 2011

The never ending question.

I feel this post has rambled a bit from where I originally started.  Originally I wanted to share my story.  But then I realized my story seems to small and insignificant.  It is not so much my story as where this story has brought me.  You are more than welcome to skip this post, or read here and there as you will. This is my story of that day and my feelings toward what I can and cannot remember.  This is not just about not forgetting, our stories will forever cement that day in our social consciousness.  

Tomorrow marks the ten year anniversary of September 11, 2001 and the question flying both on that day and every anniversary since then seems to be: where were you?

In the ten years since this event, I've answered this question a hundred times and have dissected my actions a million times.

That September I was a teenager, running full throttle through the first full month of school.  Concerned, I'm sure with theater auditions and homework.  In the ten years since the day, I've tried to piece together what I remember.

To put it simply I was in school, walking down a the hallway from my core classes to the gym for PE.  Whispers flew this way and that, snip-its and snatches of what might have happened.  I ignored them.  I didn't have time to get the whole story, because I had ten minutes to get from one end of the building to the other and change for class.

The moment I stepped into the gym--on time--I received my first piece of information.  My teacher asked for a moment of silence because someone had blown up one of the Twin Towers...

...the next thing I can remember is later that afternoon, I was sitting in my babysitter's car (because my parents were supposed to be flying out to a conference--which didn't happen) waiting in a long line for gas.  That one moment on a hot Kansas afternoon sticks out as a lonely island in a sea of obscurity.

I don't know what happened on that day.  Or the events I do remember do not fall into any sort of chronological order.  Even me walking down the hall is the one shining moment before the world changed. I have tried to recall the events from the rest of the that day.  Attempted to bring up feelings or even when I finally got the "real" information.  But for me it's a very large span of time of convoluted emotions--the most prominent of which was fear and confusions nips at fears heels.

I can remember crying and I can remember wanting to see my parents.   I can remember talking to a friend, and the exact placement of furniture in the living room of my parents house.  They bob to the surface briefly and sink back down without any real regularity.

As I'm certain most people in my age group have done, I've recounted this story in a number of classes dissected it for every reason my teacher could want.  But the thing that always frustrates me is my inability to relate the whole story in a way that makes sense.  All that remain are what my script teacher calls "gleaming details."

At least once a year, I pull these details out and sift through them, trying make sense of what happened (then and now) and each time I come to something different.  This year for me it's the loss of time.  The fact that the one day that changed my world, is a day I really can't remember. Do I blame myself, no.  I was thirteen. The mind is just not meant to meant to hold onto those details and I didn't write any of it down.

We come together to share our stories about what happened to remember a day that for many of us will never be forgotten.  This is where I was, and where I go I will carry my stories and the stories I read with me.  They will teach me, hold me and haunt me.  A year from now I wonder where will I be and what will I find among the gleaming details next.

The question I feel that always goes unasked is this: this is where we were on 9/11, where will we go next?  We will always remember, the sheer number of stories being shared is a testament to that, but how will we honor those whose stories stopped that day?

The first time I remember pushing back against the fear was the summer of 2002.  My parents had planned a trip to Washington DC long before what happened on 9/11.  They wanted my brother and I to experience A Capitol Fourth.  We flew out to DC on the 4th of July 2002.  I remember my mother telling me that if I let the fear of getting on a plane keep me in Kansas then the terrorist had done their job.

The initial fear, I feel has morphed, with the new regulations at airports, racial profiling, a war.  We've changed.  And not always for the better.  But not always for the worst either.  Every year we take steps forward and back, but the tally will never equal a time before the fall of 2001.

How will we change the world again?  How do we go forward remembering the tragedy but striving to change to make the future better as a way to honor those who died?  Going forward not with anger or terror, but the small details in our daily lives.  How will your own stories challenge you to change?


  1. What a heartfelt post! Your story is not insignificant. It is a story and experience of an awful moment that mirrors what so much of us experienced in our own corners of the world.

    I was at work and the woman over the wall was talking to someone from our NYC office, so I heard up to the minute feedback as each plane hit. It was like being in a slow playing movie frame. Real, but not real. And the horror just grew with the second plane hit, figuring out who else was hijacked, the towers falling, the Pentagon being hit, the plane crashing in PA, all the missing people.

    As I watched the ceremony this morning and heard the names read, I was reminded how it is still so raw after 10 years. Last year was the first time I was able to write about my experience, so I shared that again today. What we do now I think is to live and take care of each other in both small and big ways. It is to let go of the petty stuff that separates us. That at least is in our power to do.

  2. I was the same age as you when the planes hit (I guess that means I'm the same age now ;) ). And it's not much of a story to tell, not compared to some people. My school kept the information under wraps, and sent us home without telling us anything. By the time I arrived home, hours after it had happened, I did not know that the towers had fallen. I knew something had happened, and something bad, and I remember the whispers in school, and shrugging them off, because how bad could it be, really?

    My experience played out in the days afterward. The footage of the people jumping, played over and over and over and over. In that 1st 6 months, I went to NYC a couple times. So I remember the posters. The people selling stuff on corners with the image of the towers. I remember going to ground Zero where it was still smoky, and though I did not know it at the time, I probably inhaled ashes. I remember seeing guns in Grand Central, the 1st time I had seen guns in my entire life.

    I remember a time where I thought my country was impervious. I remember a time when I thought my country would NEVER, not ever, be in a war. And I remember when that changed. And I will never forget.

  3. What a great post, I know what you mean.

    I guess a few years older than you and on the west coast, so I was a high school senior when it happened. I was getting ready for school and turned on the tv, around 6am my time I think. The first plane had already hit and they were showing footage of it.

    My grandma was in bed and I went to wake her up. She didn't believe me or understand what I was saying. It surreal, I thinkI watched live footage as the second plane hit, and the horrified newscasters. She finally got up on her own and didn't believe what I was saying until I made her watch the tv. Then I drove to school and picked up my friends. First period was US History or Econ, we talked about it all class. It didn't seem real to me.

    After that, I think the school day went through the normal class periods. I just remember that morning.