Sunday, September 11, 2011

{ september 11 }


Ten years ago I sat in eight grade math class 
– first row, on the left, third seat from the door –
when I heard a voice from the loudspeaker. 
The principal told teachers to check their emails immediately 
and directed them to appropriately relay the message to their students. 

 Minutes later when Miss Sigworth came back from her desk, 
she said something happened in the city and that some people were hurt. 
She seemed relieved to tell us that she had already received an email from her sister saying she was okay. 

 “You should go call her anyway…” I said in hopes of getting out of class for a few moments longer. 

 It wasn’t until later that day that I understood that 
by saying she was “okay” Miss Sigworth’s sister meant she was “alive.” 

Whenever I think of that terrible day, I regret making that comment. 
I've never been able to apologize but I so wish to one day.
What an insensitive thing to say, I think. I have wished so many times I could take it back. 
I wish I’d known to keep my mouth shut. 
I wish I’d known the world outside of the school building had been forever changed. 

 I wish I had immediately understood the magnitude of what was going on 
but my thirteen-year-old brain was focused on getting out of class… and my wish came true. 

 Part of the school was moved to the gyms and the other to the auditorium where we spent a few hours knowing very little information as to why we were excused from our second or third day of class. 
Slowly, I think I came to realize that we were in the midst of something really big 
so I took up the administration’s offer to call our parents. 

I walked to the main office to use a phone to call my dad. 
 My dad, at the time a truck driver for a company headquartered in the Port of Newark, 
had left Lower Manhattan approximately 15 minutes before the first plane hit. 
He said he was okay. 
Again… the word “okay” used before I really understood its significance. 
He made it to New Jersey, parked his truck, and drove straight to our schools 
where he picked my brothers and me up before the end of the school day. 

We went home and watched images on the news that are forever ingrained in my memory: 
the cloud of fire spewed from the towers when the planes struck, 
the sudden disappearance of those buildings, people covered in debris running and crying. 
 Honestly, I mostly remember the people jumping from the skies. 
My throat still tightens. That day I learned the definition of the word surreal. 

The town I grew up in has a direct train line into New York City. 
The ride only takes about an hour and many people commute from there on a daily basis. 
Ten people from our town were killed on 9/11. One girl in my class lost her father. 
I didn’t know her very well, but I know she became a different person that day. 
When she returned to school days later she wasn’t the same girl we knew the last time we saw her. 
But no one said anything. We just knew it was what it had to be. 

 At the time my mother worked at a daycare center near the train station 
where parents commuted to and from the city. 
She worked very late that night… waiting for parents who, thankfully, 
all came back and hugged their children and sobbed. 
They cried because for long moments they thought they might never see their little ones again. 
They held them tightly for a very long time as if to make sure that they were real. 

Because I am a parent this year, I have uncovered an entire new level to the pain of September 11th. 
 When I found out my due date with my son was September 10th, I feared he would arrive a day late. 
I worried myself sick about having to celebrate his life on such a sad day. 
Though my son arrived uncomfortably late, I remember sighing in relief 
when I was still pregnant as September 11th was marked off the calendar last year. 

I have cried more in the last few days than I have the past nine years. 
I spent hours going from website to website, reading names, watching and listening to stories of survivors 
in order to write two pieces for work commemorating the tenth anniversary of September 11. 
I read the stories of the people who were in the buildings and in the planes 
and those who bravely responded to the emergency 
and have been brought to tears by the thoughts of their families 
being forced to find a way to live without their loved ones. 
 The parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles. 
The children. 
The wives. 

It is heart wrenching to think about what their lives must be like. 
I put myself in their shoes. I try.
 I think of living without my husband. I think of leaving my son behind. 
I think of what it would be like for him to grow up without a father. Without a mother. 
And then I cry. I feel a heavy heart.
 I pray for those who suffer this day. 

I don’t think I have completely grasped what happened that day. 
I’m not sure I ever will nor do I expect to. 
Yet as the years have passed, I have let myself mourn on September 11th. 
Thankfully, I did not lose anyone dear to me in the attacks 
yet I still feel a deep and unexplainable sadness, but I no longer feel I need to justify my sadness. 
I simply allow myself to feel the sorrow. 

on the first airing of his show after the attacks: 

“I grieve but I do not despair.” 

I do not despair because despite the horrible attacks I still feel free. 
I feel to say that believe in God, I feel free to think what I think, I feel free to walk the streets. 
I feel free to love my husband and my son. 
 I feel free, among endless other things, to write a blog. 

Freedom encapsulates everything this country stands for and fights for
… and freedom is something the terrorists will never tear down.


3 comments:

Alyss said...

Wow. I can't believe you were that close in proximity to the attacks. This is a lovely piece in memory of that day.

Michelle Tomo said...

That was beautiful, thank you for sharing.

Meredih Plunkett said...

That completely gave me the chills. I sometimes forget how young we were when that happened and how hard it was to comprehend. All I remember thinking was "how could something so evil happen on such a gorgeous fall day?". Because it really was the perfect day, not a cloud in the sky...

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