I grew up listening to my mom and her friends and classmates recall where they were when they learned of President Kennedy's death. I was not alive when he was killed. I was not alive when Robert Kennedy was killed, or when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. I was not alive during the Vietnam War. Even though I did not live through these events, I feel the need to mourn for them very strongly. Those who were alive during these tragedies have stories and memories to share, emotions so strong, and connections so deep, I realize that it is my responsibility to listen, to reflect, to learn, and if not remember first hand, not to forget.
On September 11, 2001, I was far away from the devastation in New York, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. I was at home, alone. I was almost 25, had been married for two months, and had just started my second year of teaching. My husband called from an early morning cross country practice as I was getting ready for work. He told me that something awful had happened. I turned on the news. This was before Facebook and Twitter. I watched in horror. I, like everyone else, was shocked, confused, scared, changed. I drove to work knowing that the day would be spent balancing the news with a sense of normalcy for my students.
As we came together as a country, as a planet, to make sense of all of this, I wondered how I would ever fly, shop in a crowded mall, or attended a sporting event again without being haunted, paranoid, terrorized. I looked at strangers in elevators differently, wondering if they were good or bad, wondering if they had the desire to hurt others, to kill themselves, to use themselves as weapons as the terrorists had on that awful September morning. I mourned for the victims and their families, for the missing that may never be found, and for the witnesses and survivors.
The following summer, our first son was born. The nursery was over-crowded, and some attributed this to the tragedy that occurred the fall before. Regardless of how many babies were born that next summer, lives would never be the same, and these children would grow up hearing about these memories, rather than living through them. It would now be my responsibility to teach my children about a tragedy that they did not experience first hand. It is now my responsibility to make sure they understand, remember, and reflect.
Ten years later, my husband and I sit with our three children and explain what happened before they were born. We, now, recall for them where we were when we heard the news, and what it was like to live through 9/11/01. We make sure they know that not all people are bad, there is still beauty in the world, and that life is to be cherished and embraced to the fullest. My husband and I will never forget, and we will make sure our children do not either. Amen.