Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Changing the Channel

For eleven times now, I have had no idea what to say when I wake up on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on our country. I didn't personally lose a loved one on that day or have any direct tie to the events in New York City, the Pentagon, or a field in Pennsylvania.  But every year when the coverage is replayed, I get a knot in my stomach. It's physically upsetting to watch and hear on television. The older I get, the more I'm able to put myself in the shoes of those who lost loved ones for a moment. Because now, my own brother, who was only 8 years old at the time, is a firefighter. 

He's a great one. A ridiculously brave one. And I know that he would not have wanted to leave anyone behind that day. And if he wasn't there, I know that he would have been on one of the teams from all areas of the country that went up to NYC to help in the aftermath. We all know that firefighting is dangerous, by nature...but no one expects to lose a loved one that way, ever. I feel for the first responders' loved ones - I think I would have a mixture of hurt and "couldn't he have just had a normal job" and yet, enormous pride all at the same time.

And at the time, of course, I wasn't married. But I have a husband now - one who flies nearly every single week for business. Who probably spends more time on a plane each month than in a car.  And I think of the widows out there today, who kissed husbands goodbye in the morning before they left for the airport, thinking they would return from some routine trip 4 days later. And then they didn't. Again, we know that travel can be dangerous - we know that people die in car accidents every week traveling for business.  But this type of loss just seems so inconceivable. Like you can't quite wrap your mind around it actually happening.  It seems so cruel to just be snatched out of the mundane in that way. And in all honesty, eleven years later, I'm not sure how I would still be getting out of bed in the morning.

Photo by Erica Berger, for People. Source.

 I think some of the 9/11 coverage has gotten entirely too personal in a way. I'm not sure that the entire nation needs to hear a husband's last words to his wife when he realized he was going to die on a televised documentary.  But...if his wife had to agree to that tape being used, and that helps her heal in some way, then so be it.  And I suppose that for those of us who don't have a personal connection to the event, that those programs help us find ways to identify through personal stories of victims and their families.  That we are able to put ourselves in their shoes, on that morning...if only hypothetically, and if only for a moment. Just to know that it could have been you - it hits home. Elicits an extra prayer on this anniversary for those effected by tragedy. 

 At certain points during some of the documentaries being shown on television last night, I had to change the channel.  And then felt almost guilty doing it. Because I am fortunate enough to be able to do that - to change the channel to get away from the raw emotion, and for what I saw on the screen to be the only physical effect that 9/11 had on my life. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of people in this country today who wish they could just change the channel. But they can't - because this event has permanently altered their lives in some way they would have never imagined. It blows my mind to think of how many people were affected by that day...how many people knew a person killed, or helped a friend mourning the death of a loved one, or sent a service member off to war in the aftermath. I feel like the ripple effect just keeps going and going.


It's crazy to me that 9/11 is now in "history" books. That children starting first, second, third, and even fourth grade this year were not alive when it happened.  That they don't have a "where were you" story to tell.  I remember mine, just like everyone else.  I was a freshman in high school, returning to public speaking class from a special presentation in the auditorium that morning.  As we walked back into class, the television had been left on (likely from Channel 1 news that morning - how many of ya'll remember that?). We saw the second plane hit the tower, and thought it was a movie at first. When we realized it was actually happening,and in real time at that,  I remember my teacher at the time pointing at the television and saying, "Sit down and pay attention guys - because this is war."

And it was.  And no matter what our individual beliefs may be in this political season, we should all be thankful for the sacrifices that the members of our military, and their spouses and families, make on a daily basis. Thankful that they protect the right to have those individual political beliefs. Thankful that we are not living in an active war zone. Thankful that we can sit at our computers and blog about whatever we please. Thankful that events  like 9/11 are still a shock to us, because we don't operate like that as a nation. Thankful, and proud, to just be an American.

2,997 flags on my law school's campus this morning in  memory of each person lost on September 11, 2001. Source.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again... Not everything about this country, and its judicial system, and its healthcare system, and its politics is perfect...but I can't think of any country, that's any better, that I'd want to call myself a citizen of. That is all.


  1. it is crazy that it was 11 years now already, 11 years when a group of selfish men took the lives of many innocent people, 11 years since our country was changed forever and already in the history books and yet it was 11 years ago only