It’s September 11, one of those “where were you when” moments that everyone vividly remembers (if you are over the age of, say, 18 or so right now.) I was watching WGN morning news that day after my husband left for work, which I did every day for both comic relief and because I thought the guy who did the sports at the time was hot (my daughter once toddled up to the TV screen, pointed her chubby little baby finger and said, “Daddy?” “No,” I replied, softly and wistfully, “No.”) Where was I? Oh, yes.
I had just put my 1 and 1/12 year old baby in her crib for her morning nap when “it” happened. When the first “it” happened, everyone thought it was a terrible accident. When the second “it” happened, we knew it was deliberate, the airspace was full of potential weapons potentially headed toward potential skyscrapers all over the country, and my husband was hurtling toward the nation’s tallest skyscraper on an express train with an end point only a couple of blocks away from it.
And I had no way to tell him. Because even though we had cell phones way back then, getting through to someone on a train was iffy at best back then. And when I knew he had arrived and I tried to call him … well, everyone was trying to call everybody at once. And then they hit the Pentagon, and I went over to gaze at my peacefully sleeping baby (the one who this morning claimed she could NOT possibly eat breakfast, because NOBODY bought instant oatmeal packets, and she does NOT LIKE Honey Nut Cheerios, and — SIGH — guessed that she would just have to eat peanut butter on toast, even though she had already BRUSHED HER TEETH and EVERYTHING) and cried silent tears because now she would be raised during wartime.
There were, of course, more memories. So many memories of those next few days and weeks. And there are so many reasons why we are still talking about this 12 years later. I get pangs of guilt, though, thinking about how people in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq are facing daily violence and ours is over. The horror those New Yorkers and Pentagon workers experienced then continues for those people today. It makes me feel like we should focus our grief into a resolve that makes sure nobody, anywhere, suffers that fate because we understand how bad it is, instead of simply reflecting on that moment in our national history and remembering how it affected us personally (where were you when…)
Something struck me today, as I perused all the memorials on Facebook. This act was not carried out by another country’s military. There was no war declared, because there wasn’t a nation to declare against. Nor do we have an image of OUR military as the iconic photo from what happened. The iconic photo is of the firemen raising our flag. The fireman, the policeman, the office worker lady in her high heels trying to escape, the bodega owner giving away bottles of water, the dads on a plane because they thought they were en route to a business trip that day — these were the people called into defensive action that day. They weren’t prepared, they weren’t trained for battle, and they certainly didn’t sign up for that duty. Maybe that’s why this is so personal.