If you are an American and were old enough to remember, you probably know where you were when you heard the news of the terrorist attack years ago. When I think about it, really reflect on it, I remember exactly where I was when I heard all the bad news in my life. When my grandpa died 15 years ago, I answered the phone downstairs in the family room. I accused my mother of lying. I said it wasn’t true. I just spent the day with him a couple hours before it happened. I was in the kitchen when I heard that my grandma died. I was in my bedroom when I called her brother to tell him. I was in 6th grade when I heard that the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Teachers were sobbing over the death of the teacher Christa McAuliffe. The school was torn down over 2 decades ago, but I still remember the room I was in.
It seems so strange that my children, nearing adulthood, have no memories of 9/11 because they were too young. It seems like yesterday that I was staring transfixed at the TV screen. My good friend called crying first thing in the morning telling me to turn on the TV. I remember feeling numb with shock. This couldn’t be happening. Our old neighbors stopped by later that day. I remember her sobs. The images we were seeing were horrific. Our children watched with us, not understanding. I remember watching the little children in the church nursery weeks afterward crashing little cars into toy buildings while pondering the fate of our country. Even though I didn’t know anyone personally affected by the loss, we as a nation mourned. We watched for weeks hoping that survivors would be found among the wreckage. We developed a new fear of anyone collectively different from us. We had to. We were afraid, even in rural Wisconsin. We worried that our Great Lakes would be poisoned. People in large cities were afraid. Then came the Anthrax scare. It poisoned our mail. We weren’t even safe in our own homes. Health care workers got small pox vaccinations in defense against biological warfare. People feared mass transportation, shopping malls, and traveling in general. Life as we knew it changed.
Then came the first anniversary of 9/11. I remember exactly where I was. I was in the bathroom that day taking a pregnancy test. Right after it said positive the fire trucks went down my road full sirens blaring with flags behind them. People came out of their homes and waved. Many years have past since then. I was even invited to a wedding that day. I didn’t think that it was right. But could I say it was wrong? Life goes on. Others were born that fateful day. Friends of ours were flying out of the country on 9/11/01 to get married. They spent their scheduled “wedding night” with hundreds of other frightened travelers grounded at the airport.
Several years back, I had the opportunity to go to the 9/11 site and museum. It was solemn, eerie, and mournful. Outside the site itself, there were people protesting their foreign government in languages that I did not know. I don’t think that I could even describe how empty that felt. I was standing next to a blackened building hearing their cries, understanding but not. Inside the 9/11 site were the names of the victims, some people had roses placed next to their names. This was at the edge of an eternal waterfall. No matter how far you looked down you could not see its ending. I just remember how silent everything was even though there were tons of people there. I don’t think that anyone kept a dry eye in the museum. I think over time our country grew stronger because of this. We pulled together. We made it through. I just wish the cost wasn’t so high. We will always remember the strong and courageous people who gave everything they had that day.