Some part of me is still in utter disbelief. I can’t stop thinking about it, or writing about it. Will the country ever be able to stop reeling from what happened on Tuesday? I don’t know. Perhaps we will be angry forever. And perhaps that is the way it should be.
My parents remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was killed. I remember the moment I saw the Challenger explode, sitting in my second grade classroom watching in excitement one minute, and in confusion the next. Why was my teacher crying? What had happened to the shuttle?
And now we have this tragedy. The destruction of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, the damage to the Pentagon, the crash in a Pennsylvania field. A defining point in history that will change our country forever. And a new generation unfortunately has their moment, the one they will never be able to forget.
I will remember the morning that I woke up, and how I usually watch the news while I eat my breakfast…but I didn’t turn on the TV that day because my roommate was sleeping late and I didn’t want to wake him. I’ll recall the CD playing in my car, how I listened to John Mayer singing instead of the radio, and so I didn’t hear them break into regular programming to announce what had happened. I’ll still feel how cool the morning was as I walked from my car into my building. I’ll think of getting off the elevator and turning the corner, and seeing Gavin walking towards me. I’ll hear the lump in his throat as he asked me, “Have you seen the news?” “No, what’s happened?” “Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center.” How I didn’t even put down my bag and coffee. How I rushed into Greg’s office only to see flames rising from the Pentagon, which had just been hit.
How will I tell my children and my grandchildren about September 11? When they read their history book and come home to ask: “Mom, do you remember when New York and Washington were attacked?” or “Grandmother, how was it possible for something so terrible to happen?”
I can say that buildings and businesses everywhere were evacuated, and that I was sent home from work as the center went to Threatcon Delta. I can show them the email from my aunt, reassuring us that my cousin Aaron, who lives in New York, thankfully wasn’t in lower Manhattan Tuesday morning. I can explain how quiet and eerie it was to step outside and not hear a single airplane flying high overheard. I can tell them about the former co-op and acquaintance of mine who had just walked into Tower Two when the second plane hit, and how he turned and ran.
I can tell them the stories, and read the old headlines…but how can I ever convey the emotions of that day and those following? The feeling of an entire nation in mourning? There just aren’t words to convey the magnitude of the pain, sadness, and outrage.
This article by Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. is the best reaction I have read so far, and the one I most closely share. I will show my children that article, and I will show my children these diary entries. I will hope that they never experience what we have.