It Happened on September 11

IMAGE Flowers drenched in rain

Flowers are still beautiful when it rains.

They say that time heals all wounds. Whoever said that, never had a loss such as the one we experienced September 11. As I write this post, the eve of Patriot Day, I am already mentally preparing to shield myself away from the coverage — the dreaded “anniversary” coverage.

This is the coverage my professors warned me about back when I was in college in the 90s.

“Anniversaries are newsworthy,” they said.

But that was back in 1994 — when news WAS news and you had to wait a few hours to get the latest, or wait for the full story to come out in the daily newspaper.

Now. News, is instant. Whether or not it’s actually accurate is another story shared for another time.

I remember where I was that day. I was nestled away in Utica, working at my alma matter. My coworker actually burst into my office to tell me what was going on. I misheard him and thought he was talking about a place in Syracuse.

He said it again two more times, and much slower.

“A plane has hit the twin towers.”

I hopped online and managed to get, and stay on, the MSNBC website. I watched the footage unfold, hidden behind my hands, peering through my fingers. Hours away from the sites of attack you could not help but feel wounded.

While I did not personally know anyone who succumbed on that fateful day I do know people who got involved, including one who was called up as part of his role with the National Guard (I had carpooled to work that day with his wife). I can’t remember if we said much of anything on the way home.

Clearly, my kids missed September 11. They have not asked about it. I have not offered any information. But tomorrow we will be bombarded with reminders of what happened so I thought, what would I say? How would I tell them we were attacked? How could I tell them that thousands of people lost their lives doing what they had done almost every day — just going to work, or taking a plane ride?

How could I tell them that even though I watched events unfold online that to this day I still cry hard when I see footage from that day?

If they asked me tomorrow, I would tell them this:

Dear child,

What happened on this day several years ago was complicated, and a story best left for when you are a bit older… While I was not there, it is an event that will never leave me. Yes, it made me sad, and it made me scared. I was frightened. I thought of my dad who fought to come to this country — the greatest country in the world — so he and his future family could have a better life. I thought of how my dad, who had passed away before this, would have been crushed by the news.

Time doesn’t heal wounds but it changes them. While I don’t want to view footage from that day, or watch anniversary coverage, it doesn’t mean I don’t care. In fact I do care, almost too much. Not watching that footage is my way of protecting myself from experiencing the feelings all over again.

Instead, what we all need to do is not focus on the bad that happened that day but focus on how we as a nation rallied and came together in the aftermath. No matter who you were, what your political beliefs where, your religion, your views — you paused, said a prayer or gave thanks, and you helped others.

What makes this country great is that we are a country of doers. Someday you’ll see footage of the event and you’ll see plenty of people running for safety. You will also witness the MANY multitudes of first responders who put their lives on the line to save others.

And for those brave ones who run to the problem, those who go to the source, those who are there to help — we need to focus on them. Because that is the definition of good. And that’s what makes our country great.

~ Until next time.

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