My “Wheres” of 9/11

photo credit: 911 Memorial via photopin (license)
photo credit: 911 Memorial via photopin (license)

Time is a funny thing. When you think of ten years, it seems like a pretty solid chunk of time. A lot has certainly happened in my life over the past decade. But ten years ago today, a lot of innocent people were robbed of the chance to experience this same decade that has filled my life so fully. And the event that played the role of thief feels just like yesterday in many ways.

My Facebook status today reads, “Remembering where I was, where I have been, and where I am.” I guess to me, that is what this day is about. In most respects, I am fortunate that the majority of September 11, 2011 will a be fairly typical Sunday. I did not lose anyone close to me, nor did the attacks happen in my city. So my day will play out with a certain normality: church, Grace’s first soccer game of the year, and a family get-together for Grandma Suellentrop’s birthday. But I know my mind will take pause for little moments throughout the day, remembering what happened ten years ago.

Where I Was: On September 11, 2001 when the first plane hit the World Trade Center’s north tower, I was sitting at my desk grading papers during my free period (I taught high school English). I heard a knock at the door and turned to see a colleague who immediately told me what had happened. I walked down to my department head’s office where a few other teachers had already gathered around her small television set. Like every other American, we were stunned. We watched in horror as a second plane hit the south tower and mourned as we witnessed both towers collapse before our eyes. And then the Pentagon. At the sound of the bell, I walked to my classroom wondering how in the world I was supposed to teach a lesson on the Iliad. How could I expect my students to pay attention to the happenings of a mythological war when a real war was happening at this very moment? And I was worried about the questions…why? who? what’s going to happen? are we safe? my dad is on a business trip in New York – can I call him? I did not have any answers. I was in a way still a child myself at only twenty-four. So I gave the students a choice. I handed out study questions that they could work on if they chose to, and I turned on the television in the classroom. This was history they were witnessing after all…terrible history, but history no less.

Where I Have Been: As I mentioned, a lot has happened to me in the ten years since 9/11, most of it very wonderful.  I got married, got a dog, bought a car, left my teaching job, had two kids, moved to a new house, discovered new talents and hobbies, lost my grandfather, made new and wonderful friends, became an aunt, started a blog…the list goes on. But I will admit that the terrorist attacks affected the way I look at the world. For the past ten years, 9/11 has always crossed my mind every time I fly. For the past ten years, I have worried a bit more about our country’s existing and future relationships with the rest of world…and about the future for my children.  But for the past ten years, I have continued to live probably in much the same way I would have had 9/11 never happened…not because it did not change the world or affect my consciousness, but because there are brave men and women fighting for and defending me, enabling me to do so.

Where I Am: So on this anniversary, it still feels a bit surreal. I can easily put myself back there and remember crisply how it felt, like stepping into an emotional time machine. But we are not there anymore. In so many ways, we have all moved on. Now September 11th serves as a reminder to me of all I have to be grateful for. I am not going to pretend I can make sense of the tragedy, or find some reason that so many innocent lives were lost. Maybe God had a reason for it. But to me, it was just sad. I will say prayers that all those victims have found peace after such violent deaths, that their loved ones have found the strength to live without them, that the survivors are no longer haunted by the memory of that day, that safety follows our troops overseas, that world leaders can find a way for peace, and that we may all guide our lives by the pursuit of happiness.

2 thoughts on “My “Wheres” of 9/11

  1. Kelly,
    You moved me to tears.
    I have to say I feel much the same as you. Where was I? Already at work and wondering how we were going to manage the day normally. I didn’t worry about questions from my students since for once their disabilities were a blessing for them. They didn’t know the fear the rest of the world was going through. But I worried about my boys and wanting just to hug them and stay safely in our own home. Needless to say it was a very long day! A lot has happened to me in those 10 years too! I became a great aunt, lost a father and a father-in-law and retired! I think we will always remember because things will never be the same, that fear will always be in the back of our minds.


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