Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001

September 11th is a day that will never be a day that is normal again. I was four when it happened so I personally can't remember a day when it ever was just a normal day. It has always been an anniversary, a moment of silence held on the announcements, a conversation in Social Studies class.

Since I'm an American, I know that I'm supposed to feel like it was a personal tragedy for me. I'm supposed to have memories of that day and I'm supposed to never forget and everything. Like I said though, I was four and in kindergarten. I suppose I must have learned the details of it over time because I don't remember experiencing it or of hearing about it (like I first heard of the Holocaust when I was about eight).

I can't relate to many of the feelings my family has felt about it. Part of me almost feels like, Well no one you knew died, so why are you so sad about it? Of course there's always the compassion and sympathy I feel for the families who lost loved ones. Yet it doesn't feel that much different than hearing of a sad event on the news except for the fact that so many people died at once (yet again I'm sure if you added up all of the dead people reported on the news across the country every day, they would probably be equivalent to the people who died on 9/11 so maybe my feelings aren't entirely misplaced). I can't imagine why anyone else would feel like it happened to them personally. The lingering feelings felt by so many adults that I know is the only thing that keeps it real.

Yet the other part of me cannot begin to imagine the terror that everyone must have felt. The terrible sadness and helpless horror that happens when you watch a tragedy unfold in front of your eyes and are unable to do anything about it (as in, what people must have felt when they saw the towers collapse and people jump). That, I suppose, was the very thread that made it a personal tragedy for all who could comprehend what was going on. I don't live in New York but I do live on the East Coast. I'm sure that everyone in my town must have been thinking that if they bombed New York and Washington D.C. then they could bomb our town or somewhere close to us. They must have been terrified that there was more of them. It's occurred to me once or twice that they hit a building where a lot of accountants worked. My mom is one so I've wondered what my life would have been like if she was one of the people there and that very thought is horrifying. I'm sure that similar thoughts have been thought after 9/11 by kids who were then around my age.

Like I said, I can't empathize with them. I can't feel like it's happened to me because it hasn't. All I can do is imagine what those people must have been thinking stuck in those buildings or in that plane or even in front of that television and those thoughts fill me with a deep sorrow for them.

I also can't fully understand a lot of the post-9/11 feelings that still linger in much of American news and culture. When one of my family members declared her disgust and fear of Muslims (and of course with the thought that being Arab and Muslim were synonymous and she therefore harbored these feelings for both groups), I couldn't comprehend why she would feel that way. It was only after thinking about how she must have been feeling that day and knowing that that was how she processed it that I began to understand. When others declared support for the TSA body scanners as well as torture/wiretapping and other similar government measures, I initially couldn't understand why they would so easily forfeit their freedoms.

I've written of my dislike for bigotry and the importance of our freedoms so I won't write of that again. What I am saying is that as we vow never to forget this tragedy let us vow never to let go of our rational thinking and to never let fear paralyze us to the point in which we cannot function (easier said than done, especially coming from someone who never had to deal with the terror left of 9/11). It's always good to be careful but not paranoid. After all, if this has taught us anything it is that life is short and can end any day. We have to appreciate every day in which we are fortunate enough to live.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness, Tori, brilliant. This is a beautiful piece. I guess for a while I, too, shared your skepticism and am still partial to those feelings every once in a while. What scares me even more than the deaths was the backlash felt by Muslim Americans around the country, even those of Middle Eastern descent without any connection to Islam in any way, shape, or form. The racism felt across the country is appalling and is embarrassing. We can't persecute ourselves, for the actions of others, because the religion of Americans who practice Islam does not make them any less American, or any more responsible for 9/11. Thank you for the lovely piece.