Remembering September 11

Like most Americans, I will never forget, or even be able to forget if I wanted to, September 11, 2001.

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It was a Tuesday.

It was my first year of teaching. I had 2nd graders. And I would teach 2nd graders for the next 14 years of my life.

It was “Fall” so I wore a purple wool sweater with khaki pants my sister gave me to school. I was overheating by day’s end.

We had a staff meeting that morning.

The morning with the kids went by as it always does.

And then I went to lunch.

As I walked by a colleague’s classroom, on my way to the teacher’s room to eat, I saw her staring at the TV she’d pulled out and turned on. She was crying. I saw an explosion on the screen.

That was how I found out about September 11. Even though we weren’t calling it that at that moment.

The rest of the day was quiet. I taught in elementary school so obviously there was no discussion about it. We played math games and read books.

And when the last bus left the parking lot, I threw my bag in my car and went home. That’s what our Principal said to do. Go home. Be with your families.

The radio stations were all-talk, no music.

The world around me seemed … still.

I got home and ran through the front door. Husband was already there. He had seen the 2nd tower hit on live TV. We sat, glued to the TV, for the rest of the night.

The following days were hard. My brain could not process this horror.

For the last 15 years, September 11 has been haunting. I have thought about it often. I have even dreamt about it. I hear planes close by and I look up. I think of 9/11.

I wasn’t there with Them. I did not hear it, see it, smell it, feel it. Not like They did. I was lucky.

And, I didn’t know anyone involved, so I didn’t lose anyone. I was really lucky.

But like most people, I know people who lost people. That can’t be avoided. That’s how huge the loss was. When compared to other mass tragedies, September 11 is small. Not to me. Not to our country. Not to the families who lost loved ones that day.

Last year, I was home sick on September 11. I had a cold. My first cold ever in September. Remembering it was September 11, I decided to tune in to TV. I never want to forget the tragedy of this day, so every year I try and watch something, read something, acknowledge it. This day, I watched a lot of interviews with people who experienced the day, who helped, who lost. I listened intently to their stories.

I started to wonder, what has been written about September 11? I have watched plenty of things, and seen some movies, but I have never read a book on the subject, other than Lisa Beamer’s Let’s Roll which was written very early on (and which I recommend).

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What about the people who survived that day, who helped that day? What about the people who died, who left so many loved ones behind? Their families? I wanted to know about those people.

I started with my library. I read two books that I just devoured.

And then I searched for more.

I came up with this one, ordered and received from Amazon, that was … life changing.

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It helped me to understand why I felt so affected by September 11, despite knowing no one who died that day, despite not living near NYC. I was identified as being an ONLOOKER in the Zone of Sadness #4. I had unlimited access to the events of the day because this was the first event in our history that was recorded as it happened. For me, and others in Zone #4, it was like the same events just occurred over and over and over in front of me, but without being touched by them; in fact, being numbed by them and unable to really grasp the tragedy of the events, the trauma. It was  much easier to feel emotions such as sadness and anger because I was so removed from the day’s reality. It was in reading this particular book that I realized, I don’t really want to remember this day because of the murderous events, the horror, the depravity. I want to remember what this day meant to our United States of America and all of the people living here. I wanted to remember the people of this day, the survivors, those lost, those left behind.

Today marks the 15th annivrsary of September 11. My second graders are now 22 and 23 years old. Some have graduated college. Some have their own children. A lot of time has passed. I am married now, I have my own house, I have my own children.

And I still have not forgotten.

Today, I talked with Girlfriend about 9/11. She heard about it last year when her teacher read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.

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She had questions last year, but I felt she was still too young. I knew it was coming though. So this year, I asked her, Do you want to talk about September 11? She wanted to.

We watched an alarming but suitable video for an 8 year old girl who understands things differently than most 3rd graders. We talked about why and how. We focused on the helpers of that day. We talked about the people. All the people. We watched a video of the 9/11 Memorial. She hopes to see it someday. I hope I can make that happen.

Here we are. 15 years later.

September 11, 2001. A day to remember in our hearts.

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