Like most Americans, I’ve been spending the anniversary of September 11, 2001 as a way to soak in as much information as possible about the events that happened that fateful Tuesday morning and to recount my own “Where were you…” experiences from loved ones. This was rather upsetting to members of my family, particularly my parents, who simply couldn’t bare to go to through the emotions of that day once again. That whole idea enraged me to a certain degree and left me thinking to myself “How could they NOT want to watch this? To understand it?” Why is it that they fully understood the extent to which our nation was affected by the 9/11 terror attacks and I didn’t?
I didn’t do any deep-diving investigating prior to this year mostly out of blissful ignorance, but I work in New York now so the attacks suddenly seemed more personal to me than ever before. Finally, after the hours of documentaries, news specials, op-eds, and columns came to a close, I finally had some time to reflect on the reasonings behind my almost fanatic style weekend researching. It dawned on me that I was only a precocious 13 years old eighth grader at the time of the attacks. To be able to fully emotionally synthesize all of those events was difficult for everyone, especially children, and I had blocked that day out of my memory for so many years. An intense rush of guilt and remorse hit me like a tidal wave – why had I been living for 10 years not wondering?
Then came the memories that I tried to block out from my brain all this time. Flashes of my entire eighth grade class taken down to our school auditorium to hear about what happened and the confused look on my young friends faces. Then there were quick glimpses of the utter bewilderment experienced by the adult figures as they themselves tried to piece things together and console their young charges. Most of us left the auditorium and were picked up by parents or other guardians, only to go home and watch the footage. It would be days before many of those young students would return to their classes.
My little Connecticut town being in such close proximity to New York meant that there were students whose parents worked in Manhattan. What haunts my 13 year old mind most is seeing the faces of the kids whose parents worked in Manhattan turn to absolute white – stricken with terror over the thought of their family life changing forever. The memory fragments are still difficult to piece into one complete story.
(There were 26 people with ties to my town who perished that day.)
The path on Memory Lane came to an abrupt end when by 1 am, my original question remained unanswered. My parents fully understood the events because they not only experienced it wholly in real-time, but they’ve seen the affects in the years prior without rose colored glasses. Everyone talks about how my generation has a somewhat jaded perception of reality and I had until that time considered myself an outlier in that sweeping generalization until yesterday.
The only thing I can say to that affect is that we all need to wake up. We’re the ones who elected a president under the pretense of “Yes We Can” and “Change” but what have we done under those ideals to honor the lives lost on 9/11 and our country?
My hours of researching brought me to AOL’s “New York Says Thank You” movie about the New York Says Thank You Foundation, an organization that sends hundreds of volunteers from New York to help communities around our own country who are recovering from disaster. AOL is now partaking in a joint effort among corporations, individuals, and non-profits with the ActionAmerica movement. With this, we can all answer my final question by working together to turn September 11th into a day of positive action. Check out their site and figure out a way that you can help make some change.