They told us that we couldn’t go out to recess because there was a really bad hornets nest. I came home to watch The Rugrats but all the channels had the same news thing on it. I was in second grade and I just remember being angry and confused because things didn’t feel right.
Little did I know in my seven-year-old brain that this was going to be something that I could identify as my generation’s Kennedy. Everyone from the Kennedy era can answer the question, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” Even though we were young, I remember clearly the day of September 11, 2001.
Now, 12 years later, I can put that infamous, tragic day into perspective. On the anniversary of 9/11 this past Wednesday, I didn’t really think about it too hard, except for the tweets, Facebook statuses and instagram posts I saw about it. I didn’t really contribute anything of my own besides tweeting from my class/professional account a link to a multimedia story on it. Check it out here.
All day on Wednesday, I felt absolutely awful. My weekend at LouFest with heat, not a lot of water, exhaustion and my bad sleeping habits when I got back to school caught up with me and my body just quit on me. Part of me reflected on it in a way that made me feel like my body was shutting down and not dealing with thinking about the horrible things that happened and the many innocent lives lost. Also, maybe subconsciously it was causing me to suffer because of the distance I was placing between myself and thinking about 9/11. I have been given the privilege to not have to think about the tragedy of 9/11 in a fairly frequent amount because of my physical distance from the actual event (being in Naperville, IL with no relatives or love ones in New York kept this distance). Sometimes this privilege makes me mad because I have the type of personality where I want to be able to help people in any way that I can, but usually in a way that has me interacting with them. With something on such a grandiose scale as 9/11, I felt so small and helpless, a feeling that makes me feel more sick than any actual illness. When a lot of my residents (reminder: I am a RA in Jones Hall) were grieving after three of their friends died in a car accident, I was getting angry that I couldn’t help them more except for just being there to comfort and listen. I feel horrible that I have been able to live such a normal life after 9/11, except for the crazy level of searching at airport security, while others have to deal with the loss of friends, family, place of work, a way of life. Heck, some people can’t even get on planes easily because they are listed as “suspicious” based on the heritage they hold in similarity to the hijackers. Little, white, blonde me has no issues with any of this.
None of the 9/11 feels hit me until after I took my shower and watched a little video that was on my Facebook news feed. It is the song “Heaven” playing while pictures from 9/11 flash across the screen and a little girl’s voice talks about how it has been one year since the accident and how she misses her daddy. The girl’s voice talks as a fifth-grader when it was five years later, and as a high-schooler when it is 10 years later, each time getting sadder and more choked up about missing her dad as she tells him what is going on in her life. At this point, I am bracing myself on my bed, bawling in my towel wrap. I don’t cry unless I put myself in other people’s shoes or get upset about how I am so fortunate and I feel like I am not doing enough with my privilege. It is so unfair when I think about how many young kids had to grow up without a parent because of 9/11 and I am thankful that I come from such a full family.
As I was still sobbing about that video, I read a survival story of someone who was working in 1 World Trade Center. The imagery of this story was almost enough to make me ill at some points, just thinking of the gravity of the situation and flirting, no, about to go steady with death. I realized that I sometimes can take my family, friends and lifestyle for granted because I have been so damn lucky. It is horrible that something so tragic has to remind me of the preciousness of everything in life.
In my old house back at home, we had a little window cling in our front small window next to our front door. It was a small flag with “September 11, 2001 We will never forget” inscribed on the bottom. Over the years it faded, but I always remember peeping out that front window and tracing my fingers over it and just thinking about it, how unfathomable it still seemed. Though I might not have any tangible connection to that day, I have traced that cling into my memory to remind me that even my home in Naperville, even my little privileged self, was a part of the tragedy of our nation and is a part of rebuilding and remembering it.