In every generation there seems to be a seminal event. Something we will always remember. Something we will forever look back upon and remember exactly what we were doing when we heard the news. For my grandparents it was the attack on Pearl Harbor. For my parents it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For me it was the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. At least it was until 9/11 happened.
I remember my husband waking me up from a nightmare of being caught in a burning house, to tell me of a living nightmare that played out again and again on the screen of our television set. I remember being numb for days afterwards. It wasn’t that I couldn’t cry. It was that I was afraid if I let myself start, I would never stop.
As a Christian, I grew up knowing that there is a lot of evil in this world, but as an American I had been sheltered from so much of it. 9/11 ripped that shelter right off me. It made me look evil straight in the face. It brought that evil onto our shores. It killed thousands of people. And it made us stop fighting about all of our differences and unite. Together we stood, united in our horror and our grief.
I remember the day my husband, who has to fly frequently to go to and from work, had to get on an airplane again 10 days after the attacks. I didn’t know what being brave was until I had to watch him walk into a vastly changed airport and I couldn’t go with him. Everyone on that flight was scared as the flight attendants tried to make things seem normal. The moment I got the phone call that he had arrived safely and had hung up the phone, I burst into tears. It was the first time I had cried, the first time I had let the numbness wear off and allowed myself to feel everything I had been holding back since the planes struck the towers. I cried for those we lost and what we lost as a country that day. Our innocence had been ripped away never to return. My innocence.
People said it couldn’t happen here. Then it did happen here. It changed me on a level that is basic to my being. No, I will never forget. I will always remember.