II Years Later
(by Mir from WouldaShoulda)
I hesitate to talk about my memories of 9/11, usually. I wasn't there. I didn't lose any loved ones. Although I'll never forget that day, I am wary of making anyone who was touched more personally feel like I'm co-opting their tragedy, as it were. Is that considerate or just weird? But now that we've reached the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I can't help joining the rest of the country in looking back and comparing then and now.
It's funny; eleven years ago today was my daughter's first day of "real" preschool. She'd done some couple-day-a-week programs, but for the first time she was going to go five days a week to a new program. She was—even at the tender age of 3—fiercely independent and thrilled to be headed out. She was wearing her favorite outfit (a purple dress with matching leggings) and was impatient with me making her hold a sign and let me take her picture. In that picture she wear a gigantic smile and a backpack almost as big as she was. Finally we were on our way, and after I dropped her off, I took her baby brother to his first day of daycare. This was going to be the first time in years that I wasn't home taking care of kids 24/7; I would have two full mornings each week to work on my writing and I couldn't wait to return to a quiet house and get to work.
By the time I got home, though, my then-husband had called to tell me to turn on the TV. I ended up spending my "work" morning glued to the television, fighting the urge to go pick my kids back up right away. Ultimately I realized that I didn't want them seeing this, so I watched until it was time to pick up the kids, then turned the TV off.
As the country tried to figure out how to respond, I quietly, shamefully, was grateful that I hadn't known anyone who was there. The closest I got was that one of my friends had an old friend whose husband worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. Even then, his death was theoretical to me, as the others were. It wasn't someone I knew. It was a general tragedy in my mind, a big big bogeyman of BADNESS and fear, but it didn't take anyone I, personally, loved. And what were the odds of such a horrible day repeating? I wouldn't. It couldn't. And we didn't live in a major city. We were safe. My family was safe.
I have a very clear memory of putting my kids to bed that night and offering up a silent prayer. The world might be a dangerous and unpredictable place, but these two children, all chubby cheeks and dimpled knuckles and raucous giggles, I would do whatever I needed to to keep them safe. Please help me keep them safe, I thought, as I tucked them in and reminded myself that my family had escaped this horrible day unscathed.
Eleven years ago today I was afraid of terrorists, while my daughter was so excited to be headed off on a new adventure that she could barely stop laughing and dancing long enough to let me take a picture. Today, I know to leave myself plenty of time to be felt up by the TSA if I have to fly somewhere, and my daughter has been living in a hospital for three months. No one expected an attack on the World Trade Center. I never thought to be afraid of terrorism before 9/11. And I never knew I would one day still be able to picture my 3-year-old dancing around in her favorite purple dress when ten years later her life has taken a turn we never foresaw, casting a shadow over her future.
I'm a little ray of sunshine today, I know.
But follow me, here: For me, there's a certain peace in this day. Maybe that's a luxury I can have because I didn't lose anyone that day, and I fully admit that. But eleven years post-tragedy, with the long view, I see… triumph over tragedy. Life that went on. I remember reading about the children of 9/11 last year and marveling at how their parents went on, how their lives were still "regular" in many ways, even though they'd been raised in the aftermath of a tragedy that robbed their families of a father. People keep going. Life goes on, and good things still happen.
There's a comfort in that, all these years later. Especially as I'm missing my own kiddo, and wishing she was home with us. Especially as I'm remembering how eleven years ago, I had no idea that planes could take down towers or that my own child might not end up okay, despite my best efforts to take good care of her. Bad things happen, unexpectedly. Tragedy doesn't send a "save the date" card so that you have time to prepare. None of us has a crystal ball, so all we can do is try to enjoy the good stuff to the fullest and not let the bad stuff take over or destroy our will to go on.
Optimism and acceptance don't always come easily to me. But today, especially, I'm going to try to stay in the moment and appreciate the good things.
Will you do anything different today? Does a tragedy on the scale of 9/11 make you more appreciative of what you have or just more fearful?
(More Mir Here)