“This is my worst fear. It’s not keeping my students safe from terrorists, it’s knowing what to do when the Chaplain comes to take Johnny out of class because not letting the terrorists win means sometimes the good guys have to die. And those good guys have kids, and they’re sitting in my classroom.” –Tucker Elliot, The Day Before 9/11
I found this quote on the site goodreads.com like the book nerd I used to be, and it hit me pretty hard.
I was a clear-headed nineteen year old college student when the 9/11 attacks took place. I was at my home in Brooklyn and relieved to not be in school that day because my 9am journalism class was canceled for election day. I stood next to my father and held his hand as I watched each tower collapse, weeping and filled with complete terror.
Hoping to someday become a writer, I immediately took in the massive media coverage. I observed how it affected us all, and wondered how anyone could even accurately portray with words the enormity of the tragedy and chaos that was currently happening right there in my backyard.
As a New Yorker, I worried about friends and family who were in Manhattan that day, at school or at work, walking miles over bridges and desperately trying to locate loved ones while escaping the horror unfolding downtown. I was angry that someone had done this to the place I’d called home my entire life. I’d always viewed 9/11 that way, through the eyes of an angry but very, very proud New Yorker. Fellow New Yorkers will understand this, and fellow Americans will too but in a different way I suppose.
Someday many years later I’d experience memories of 9/11 in a different, new way– as the wife of a Marine and a proud supporter of our brave troops who continue to sacrifice so much in order to avenge the atrocities of that day and keep us safe from experiencing that kind of evil ever again.
Today I am a parent, and I see memories of 9/11 through yet a different set of eyes. Children losing parents– babies who will only know the person who gave them life as a face in a photograph; this is not the way it is supposed to be. As a parent who can’t even fathom not being around to witness the first steps and birthdays and graduations and weddings of these little people who are literally my EVERYTHING, it just seems so damn unfair. So senseless. So wrong.
Perhaps I’ll never stop gaining new perspective on the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001. Because everyone has a story, everyone knows exactly where they were and what they were doing; and here in New York, everybody knew somebody forced to say goodbye.
We may change and grow as people a little more in our everyday lives. But as witnesses to this catastrophic piece of our nation’s history, one thing will always remain a constant: the memory of the fallen, the bravery of the heroes, and the unity of our people as a nation will always live very deeply within the hearts of every single one of us. No one can ever take that away.