I have never written much, even in personal journals, about September 11th. Not unlike many of us, I find myself reflecting and remembering in a different way this year, the fifth anniversary of the attacks on our country.
I was lucky that day, I didn't lose a family member or friend in New York, D.C., or Pennsylvania. My father was flying that morning, but he took off from somewhere in Texas and landed abruptly in Oklahoma (I believe) when planes were grounded. He rented a car with another business traveler and arrived home significantly later than planned, but safe. I find myself truly unable to imagine what this day must be like for the thousands of people who experienced a personal loss on that day which changed us all.
I watched some of the news programs this morning, but eventually I had to turn them off because I kept being overwhelmed by tears. It was unsettling to Harper, who looked at me quizzically. When I think about the fact that someday she'll ask me about all of it, my heart catches in my throat. There are some "whys?" I just don't have any answers for.
On September 11, 2001 I was not a mother. I was engaged, but not yet married. In the first few days following the attacks, I sincerely wondered whether either of those things would ever happen. I was scared. Thinking months, years into the future seemed almost foolish. What kind of future could I hope for in a world where things could go so terribly wrong?
Around the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center, I was conducting reading groups in my first grade classroom. I found out about the attacks after I walked the children to their gym class. I turned on the television in my room, watching about half an hour of news coverage, then turned off the television and picked up my class. I couldn't cry. I couldn't seem scared. By then the children could tell something was going on. When they asked questions, I told them some airplanes had crashed and many people were hurt. We said a prayer. I assured them we were safe at school and we went about our day the best that we were able.
Late that afternoon there was a sonic boom that could be heard throughout the Dayton area. As you can imagine, it scared us all. The following day at school, that is what all the children talked about. We sat in a circle on the rug and they all told about where they were when they heard the noise. Some of them ran outside with their families, some were called in. They didn't really understand what had happened to our country and they were very nervous. I repeatedly told them, they were safe, our school was safe, their parents were safe, although I wasn't entirely sure that was true. After our two hour "circle time," on September 12, we pretty much returned to business as usual. With six- and seven-year-olds, there was no other choice. But for a long time I saw fear in their eyes at any loud noise, a siren, a door slamming, thunder.
For months after 9/11 I had nightmares about bombs and planes. I had trouble sleeping and eating. I was scared to be alone. I looked for an airplane every time I heard one, watching for any signs that it was flying too low, that something was wrong. The noise of a plane overhead still makes my heart skip a little, sends a shadow through my thoughts.
I am not as scared as I was in the weeks and months following 9/11, but I am still scared. I see all the terrible things in the world, terrorism, war, poverty, disaster, and I wonder what kind of place this is for my daughter to grow up in. I sometimes wonder if we were wrong to bring a child into this uncertain world. How can any of us hope to be happy in a world where so many things are wrong? And then I look at her.
Harper reminds me that the world is also full of hope and wonder and love. She helps me remember to find happiness right here while we have it. I have a beautiful family and amazing friends. I have so much love in my life. I laugh some, every day, even the difficult ones. While I will always feel sorrow on this dark anniversary, I will also try to remember how the country came together in those following days. I will remember to have hope, to be kind, to love. And do my little part to leave the world, at least this part of it, better than it might have been without me.