the day after
September 12, 2006
I never really hear people talking about September 12, 2001. I remember that day even more clearly. Perhaps it is because by then I had tracked down everyone that I knew. I had fielded phone calls from people who had vague ideas that Rob traveled but had no idea when or where he would be. Heard all the stories of friends of friends of friends that I could bear to hear. It was the day I finally started breathing again.
I didn’t leave my house on that September 11. I had nowhere to go.
The next day as I drove down the road I noticed the flags. Flags hanging on every house I went past. Huge flags that hung two stories from the top of their house, rows of tiny flags lining their walkway, flags hanging on flagpoles, flags displayed in windows. I wondered where these people had gotten all these flags in one day. Had they had the flags and never displayed them? I had never seen so many flags, not even on July 4th. (I also noticed how many people hung their flags backward and wondered why they didn’t think it loked weird to have the stars on the right). People with signs on their lawns, “God Bless America” or “We Will Never Forget” and a lump welled up in my throat and my eyes were filled with tears. I am not normally like that.
Mingling with the tremendous sadness and loss there was an underlying sense somehow that we as a country were united. We were strong. We would persevere. We still had hope.
And now five years later I wonder where those feelings went.
What is the biggest change since September 11, 2001?
I hear people say it was the day the realized their own mortality. The day they saw the face of God… or lost their faith in him. The day they decided to pursue their dreams or mend past relationships. When I reflect on what has changed for me on a personal level, it is much more subtle.
Now when my husband travels for work and gets on a plane, the children say, “I hope no one crashes your plane into a building.” Or when they wave goodbye as he drives off to the airport one of them will nonchalantly say, “I hope he doesn’t die, Mom” and then they go right back to riding on their scooter, hitting a baseball, tormenting their sibling.
This nonchalant attitude isn’t because they don’t love their father, they do. It’s just that this is a real possibility in their minds. Even the ones who were not old enough to remember the day itself. It is the back drop to their lives. Terrorism:It’s the new normal.
One time I got annoyed and snapped back at one of them, “Of course nothing is going to happen. Of course he is coming back.”
And my third born son looked me in the eye and said, “Didn’t all those people [on 9/11] think that too?” And he was right. Upon examining my own reaction I realized that I didn’t want to be reminded of that fact either. I wanted to pretend things were the same as they had been before that day.
That is the lingering legacy of September 11.
That my children have this sense that nothing is a given. There are no absolutes that they can count on. That the idea of a plane crashing into a building and killing people isn’t some far fetched idea. It is real. It happened.
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