Sunday, September 11, 2011
ten years later
I do remember Emily Jones Hutton coming into my bedroom at the Chi O house and telling me something happened to the World Trade Center in New York. I remember her telling me that her dad thought it happened because America is friends with Israel. I remember turning on the TV immediately, but I don’t remember what I saw then.
I had to go to Mississippi History in Allen Hall at 9:30, and I remember the buzz in the halls and in the classroom. Talk of the first (North) tower being hit, then the second (South). The second tower collapsed, followed a few minutes later by the first. I don’t remember another thing about class that day – what we talked about or whether the teacher showed up. I don’t even remember how or when I heard about the crashes into the Pentagon or the field in Shanksville, Penn.
After class, I met up with Kell at a shuttle stop, but I don’t remember which one. We sat glued to the TV that entire afternoon, watching Rudy Guiliani walk through the dusty streets of Manhattan with some other men in suits and hard hats. People were running everywhere, weeping, covered in grey. I remember all the printer paper all over the streets and huge clouds consuming all the paths and alleyways.
I remember skipping Speech that day (I was even on the schedule to deliver a speech), but I decided to attend my Newswriting class, simply because of the subject. Classmates were looking at each other, confused, shocked, talking about what they’d seen on TV. I remember our teacher saying we needed to pray for the victims and their families and the leadership of battered New York City and our vulnerable country.
I’ve heard so many people say they remember every moment of September 11, 2001. Unfortunately, I don’t. There are so many elements of that day that have escaped me.
But what I do remember, what’s burned in my brain, is the image of the firefighter going up the stairs of the WTC, his eyes locked forever in that photo, against the hysterical workers going down. I remember our President standing atop a pile of rubble, his arms around workers, declaring that our great nation would not be defeated by these acts of terrorism. I remember the unity that swamped us all. Americans. Not red or blue or Democrat or Republican. I remember Congress singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol. I remember hearing Paul Simon sing “The Boxer” on SNL that Saturday, accompanied by a trumpeter who worked for the NYPD.
How, in only ten years could so much have happened, yet so many things stay the same? What happened to the “Never Forget” posters and the newspaper flags we hung in our windows? Sure, we’re not all New Yorkers. We don’t walk past Ground Zero every day. Most of us didn’t lose a loved one. But moments, days like September 11, 2001 define a people and a nation and a world. We swore we’d always remember what it felt that day to be just an American.
Ten September 11ths later, we are all still Americans. We got Bin Laden. Contrary to what we hear on the news or read in papers, magazines or on the internet, it still doesn’t matter if we’re red, blue, Democrat or Republican. What does matter is how we treat each other, how we treated each other on September 12. There’s a reason some memories stay while others dissolve. Time protects us from much but cultivates what’s important.
Remember today, every day, what is truly, completely, absolutely important.