Has it really been ten years? That’s what I keep thinking, what keeps coming up in conversation. I don’t watch much TV and don’t read much online news, so I’ve barely caught any of the ten-years-on reports or tributes. Part of me wants to avoid it. I wonder: Is this really helpful for the families who lost loved ones to keep replaying footage and speculate and commemorate? I don’t know.
As a child I remember my parents saying that they could remember exactly where they were when they heard the news that JFK had been assassinated. They claimed everyone in their generation and older could do exactly the same. I thought that was weird. I tried to compare it to events in my life. Could I remember exactly where I was when I heard that Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait? Vaguely. Could I remember exactly where I was when I heard that the first Gulf War had started? Vaguely. When the occupation was over? Vaguely.
But I remember vividly that Tuesday morning in Ann Arbor when I was housesitting for friends on the Old West Side. It was such a gorgeous morning that I decided to ride my bike to my part-time job at Jimmy John’s. (As a side note of explanation: I was in Ann Arbor for about six months between stints in Honduras. I was substitute teaching but also working at Jimmy John’s just for fun.) Our church offices were in a house across the street from JJ’s, so I carried my bike up there to leave it. Tom met me at the door and told me we were under attack and to come and watch TV. There were the images that are burned into every American’s psyche. Immediately I knew Arabs would be blamed. I pleaded with God for it not to be true, knowing the societal repercussions. I wanted to stay and watch more but had to be at work. As customers entered the store, we knew which ones knew and which ones didn’t. The ones who didn’t always asked what was going on, why was everyone so somber, why were people angry, what were we listening to on the news.
The rest of my story is like so many others’: Who do I know in NY or DC? Are they okay? I need to call my family and my boyfriend. A memorial on campus. A memorial at church. Crying at every news item. Feeling patriotic. Grieving for the families whose lives were directly touched.
I still tear up when I see the images or hear reports. I cried on the way to church this morning listening to a youth choir sing the national anthem. They have no personal recollection of what happened. That’s the strangest thing for me – that my former students were not even alive ten years ago. Stories of that day are like stories to me of JFK’s assassination. Would my students think it’s weird that I know exactly where I was when I heard the news?
For a younger generation 9-11 is another JFK or Pearl Harbor. Children will hear their teachers and parents and grandparents talk about it. But ten years on (and 48 years on and 70 years on) we still grieve and we still pray for comfort and for healing. For some, ten years was a lifetime ago, but for others it is still so fresh.