Monday, September 5, 2011

Remembering September 11

For some reason this year, the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, is so much more real, so much more impactful than any year before.

Is it because, now that I'm an adult and I know what it's like to lose people, I can somehow relate? Or is it just that now, a comprehension of the weight of what happened, of the grief, causes me to feel more than I did before?

I don't really know, but I do know what's true. People always used to say, "You will remember exactly where you were the day you heard the towers fell." And they were right. It's one of the few days I distinctly remember from high school.

I was 15 years old, a sophomore at Grand Blanc High School, and in my third period U.S. history class when one of my classmates came in and told us that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. Not having been given any details, in my mind I questioned, was it an accident? Was it something small like a Cessna?

Throughout the day, it became more clear as the details were shared. By the time I was walking away from the bus stop after the school day ended, a sense of dread was filling what I remember to be a beautifully clear, sunny day. I walked toward the house where I was staying with some family friends, wondering what else was going on in the world. And hoping nothing was happening in Dallas, where my parents were still living.

It was strange to be separated from family that day, to know that miles stretched between, and to not feel entirely safe, wondering how many planes had been commandeered and where they were flying to.

When I got to the house I was allowed to briefly call my mom. Of course my family was safe. We were all watching tv, tuned in to the same images of the burning, then collapsing buildings. All of our minds were filled with similar questions. What was going on and why?

I remember President Bush giving his address. Saying that action would be taken, we wouldn't just sit back defenseless, justice would be served. I remember people loved him that day. They rallied behind him, cheering him on. He represented what we all felt in our hearts, that no one should be allowed to do this to us and triumph. His approval ratings soared.

Ten years have passed. It seems so strange to say. When things happen and you live through them, it almost feels like you'll be in that moment forever. That life will somehow stay as it is and you will go on being just as you are.

But this is not the case. Since 9-11, I graduated from high school and from college. I've landed jobs, I've traveled, I've made some of the best friends I could ask for. I've been in love and out of it, I've shared tears and triumphs and I've gone on living. So much has changed from that day, and yet I still remember it with clarity and now, even more understanding.

Today I read some letters written to people who had been killed in the attacks. I couldn't get through a single one without choking back tears. It may have been a decade ago, but time hasn't made a single person forget what they lost. I don't think another ten years will, either. We will always go on remembering.

And why is that? Why do we cling so tightly to these memories? Why don't we allow ourselves to forget? Because people matter. They are worth far more than anything else in this life, and if you look at something like Sept. 11, you will see why. You will see that people's lives were forever changed the day they lost their mother, husband, sister, boyfriend, cousin. And you will see that something this tragic causes us to cling to memories, to honor lives lost, in ways we remember little else.

Find someone you love this Sept. 11, and tell them what they mean to you. Tell someone why you appreciate them, why they are special to you. The time we have with the people we care for is so precious, and can be so short. So let's make the most of what we have, and never take for granted those we love.

I found the photos in this Sept. 11 memorial post from 2009 very moving, and worth sharing. (There is some graphic content, however, so please view with discretion.)

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