Memories of 9/11

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My daughter came to me on the night of September 10, 2001 around 11:30.  She trembled with fear and crying.  I struggled up from slumber that fought back in blissful ignorance, but a mother can't ignore her child, even if she is twenty-two years old.

I turned on the light.  "What's wrong?"

Her unlikely reply made me sigh.  "I'm afraid of terrorists."

"Whatever for?" I fell back against my pillow.  "The odds of you coming in contact with one is so little."

"But I might," she said, her voice on the edge of hysteria. "What if they ask me if I'm a Christian? If I say yes, they might kill me. I've heard that some kill you even if you say no."

I fought exasperation that night.  Every evening, I struggled to get a good night's sleep. Once I'd reached the point where my body finally succumbed to sleep, I needed to be left alone in order to get anything close to a good night's sleep. Interruptions usually ruined the whole night for me.

"I don't think it's worth worrying about," I said, wondering what set her on this train of thought. I had experienced other nights like this with her, nights when a thought ripped into her soul, creating insecurities that multiplied.  She sought me at these times, begging for solace.  Sometimes, I got frustrated.

It took time, but she finally calmed down and went to bed to sleep in security and confidence.

The next morning, the planes hit the towers.

I waited in trepidation for her to wake up and discover her late night fears had transformed into a new reality.

Yes, the account above really did happen on the eve of 9/11, and it rocks me to the core how my daughter's mind went there only hours before the tragedy occurred.

It's amazing to me, still, how much that one morning changed our outlook on life.  But I think we've forgotten.  Travel became harder, but we grumble about it.  For a short while, we turned to God, and churches experienced huge attendance.  People extended kindness and looked out for each other.  That's what tragedy does to us.

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But today, I wonder, have we forgotten? Do we remember, seventeen years later? A whole generation has been born without awareness of that day. My grandson's teacher informed us of ways she's attempting to help her class, second graders, understand this tragedy. I don't think they ever will. They've grown up in a different world, altered by those events. They don't know what we lost that day.

But even we forget.

It's hard to maintain that heightened awareness at all times.  Time numbs the pain.  We need to go on, to survive, but I only have to think about that morning to recall those horrific images and recall how our world stopped. One has to wonder...

Do we really remember the way we should?


Skip Pfaff said…
If your purpose in tendering this post was to provoke thought on this sad anniversary, you have, in my case, succeeded admirably. After reading it, I came out with two things I continue to turn over in my mind. First, there is that little four-word sentence, “Time numbs the pain.” The second and far more important, to me, was the question your daughter put forth, “What if they ask if I’m a Christian.”
With regard to the first, I think back to my elementary education. We learned the quote, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” It’s often attributed to Jefferson. He never said it. It was a Massachusetts abolitionist, Wendell Phillips in January 1852. Actually, it was an Irish politician, John Curran, who first offered the idea, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”, in a speech in July 1790. The point is we are paying that price in our American lives because of 9/11. How sad it is that we who lived through it have forgotten the liberties we lost because of it. Perhaps, even sadder is the fact our youngsters never knew or probably will never know what was lost.
The other more important point to me that question your daughter asked in the profundity of looming events on the night of 9/10. It’s personal as hell. How would I answer that question? I keep thinking about Peter, that rock upon which Jesus would build his church. Three times he denied Jesus after protesting he would never do so. What about me? What would I do?
Thank you, Barbara, for a great post.
Skip, thank you for your insight. I'm glad this resonated with you. I've often wondered about my daughter's question. I would like to think I'd say I was a Christian, but even Peter didn't believe he'd ever deny Christ.

And, yes, I worry that our children won't know what freedoms we lost that day. It's the world as they know it. That's disturbing.

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