This is an extremely late 9/11 post. Partly because I've been busy, another part because I plumb didn't want to write it. 9/11 brings up a torrent of emotions that I am simply not ok with dealing with. But this past 9/11 was the tenth anniversary--and frankly, it's not right that I simply ignore it.
I spent the tenth anniversary in DC. Seriously. Oh, don't worry, it gets way better. I actually boarded a plane at 6:29 AM from Dayton, Ohio, to Washington DC. Right after a terrorist threat had been announced by the president. Needless to say, this was not exactly a flight I slept through.
I'd never been to DC, although according to my mother, I was born in Bethesda, so I HAVE been to DC, I just don't remember it. Still, I really enjoyed myself. It was cool visiting the monuments that I'd seen in pictures and it was especially cool doing so on a day as important as 9/11.
One of the first things we (we meaning the special seminar I am a part of this year, rather than taking formal classes) did was go to the Smithsonian museum and check out the 9/11 exhibit. It was...powerful to say the least. It had little booths for each catastrophe--United 93, the twin towers, the Pentagon--each containing wreckage and relics from the disaster. There was a clock that had fallen from a wall within the Pentagon, stopping on the exact time of the attack. There was a squeegie that a window washer had used to carve his way out of one of the towers, rescuing himself and a few others. There were twisted pieces of metal in grotesque shapes, all that remained of heroes and victims.
At the end of the exhibit, there was a portion where you could sit down, and write down your experiences of 9/11 and post it on a wall. This is what I wrote:
I wish I had clearer memories of this day. I was only eleven. Newly eleven, in fact. I remember my father telling me that he knew people in the Pentagon. People who died. I found the names of his friends when we visited the Pentagon memorial.
I think one of the most important things to remember about 9/11 was that it wasn't just an attack on New York. It wasn't just an attack on DC. It was an attack on the USA. It was a declaration of war by zealots who wanted us dead. Wanted? Still want us dead. Just because we got Osama, ten years later, doesn't mean the threat is over. They attacked the Pentagon, the center of our military. The place where we plan how to defend our country. They attacked the World Trade Center towers, symbols of capitalism and basically, what a rich country we were. Thank God and the brave souls of United 93 that we will never know the third target. The White House? The Capitol?
Every year, come 9/11, I sit down and I reread news articles. I watch youtube videos of the planes hitting the towers, the plane hitting the Pentagon. Most horrifyingly, I force myself to listen to the phone calls of those trapped inside. I listen to the fear in the voices of the flight attendants who called for help. I listen to the 911 calls from the towers, people begging to be rescued, terrified for their lives. I listen to the announcement, just recently released, of the Al Quaeda terrorists, saying they had taken over the plane. Why do I do this? Am I a masochist?
I don't ever want to become content with the knowledge that my country, my home was attacked. I don't ever want to become accustomed to this. I don't want to ever forget.
The most powerful thing I saw at the 9/11 exhibit was a father, sitting on a bench with his daughter. The girl couldn't have been more than ten years old. He was explaining to her why he had to go to Afghanistan, and what had happened on 9/11. "You were too young to remember, but..." Tears filled my eyes. I think it was shocking to realize that this wound, still so fresh and festering in my memories, will not be remembered by the children of today. My children will read about 9/11 in textbooks, perhaps ask me about it to fulfill a history report.
After all this time, I'm not ready for 9/11 to be history yet.