No, I haven’t written down my experience of 9/11, but it’s about time. I remember my first reaction quite well, even after ten years, and I don’t like to think about it. I dropped my youngest child off at the preschool in our church and noted the hallway was a bit empty. A few mothers I didn’t know had stopped in small clusters to whisper to each other and then quickly left. I wondered if there was something going on with the preschool, but inside the classroom, everything seemed normal. Still, I felt a strange undercurrent from the anxious tones of the whispering. I turned the car radio on during the short drive home and heard the deejays say something was going on in New York, but they weren’t sure what. Their voices were tense and quiet, not the usual super-cheerful morning show chattering. Ads came on, then music.
At home I turned on the TV just after the second plane hit. I could not comprehend what was going on, but my blood – and my mind – froze. My jaw fell open in shock. When the first tower began to fall, so did my tears. I remember crying to the TV, “Oh, no, oh my God!” At that point I ran to the front closet, grabbed our big flag and placed it in the holder outside the door. It was the only way I could think to show my pain and my support for those who had died, those who were trying to escape, and above all for the rescue personnel I had seen going into the towers.
Ten years later it still hurts to think about this, even though I was all the way over here in Missouri when it happened and I don’t even know anyone who lost someone they loved. Guess I’m too sensitive – after the tragedy I had to quit watching and reading the round-the-clock news because I was empathizing so much my nerves were starting to break.
For everyone who lived through 9/11, the event has become part of our history, part of who we are. Even if we think we weren’t personally affected that much, we see how it has affected our lives each time we go to the airport. It’s part of our legacy now to tell the story of where we were and how we were affected, partly to honor those who died and the heroes who risked their lives to save others, but also to remember how shockingly we learned that an ocean is not wide enough to keep us safe from enemies and that we should not take for granted life and the people we love.
Some people journal through trauma and find that helps them heal. Others have to wait until after they recover. Either way, the story is most full when we can bear to look at it and we have gained perspective – soon after, or ten years later. Lauren Manning survived 9/11 after being burned over 82% of her body. Her scars carry great meaning. Her inspirational memoir, Unmeasured Strength, has just been published.
“Cherry Blossoms in Twilight”