Each year, September 11th quietly sneaks in a back door. I wake up to it. I feel it deep in my bones. I take a moment to hear the silence. I watch planes glide in clear blue skies, safely making it to their destination. I hug my kids a little tighter. The hubby hugs me a little tighter. I move through our day, remembering, but enjoying the present life I have. Seeing it with eyes that understand the alternative.
This year, September 11th has been coming at me hard and fast and teary for the last week. The 10th anniversary has resulted in documentaries, interviews, rebroadcasts. I have avoided most of them. I turn the channel. I avert my eyes. I change the subject.
Part of me desperately wants to be in DC. I’d like to walk the sidewalk in front of my old office building where National Guard stood. I want to sit inside the church where my colleagues and I clutched each other’s hands, passed Kleenex and prayed the following day. I want to watch planes take off from Dulles airport where they were silent 10 years ago. I want to hear the comforting voices on WTOP. I want to cross the Roosevelt Bridge out of the city and not see a black cloud towering into the heavens. I want to be in a place that understood the quietness of chaos, the taste of fear and the resolve to rebuild the gaping maw in the side of the Pentagon.
My own memories are also colored by guilt. My experience is nothing compared to those who lost loved ones, friends and colleagues. My day leaving the city was not the selfless act of first responders running up the stairs. My tears ran down a clean face, free of the ash and debris of a fallen tower. My voice mail was absent of goodbye messages from a lost plane.
10 years is such a long time. And yet the scars of 9/11 run deep and still ache easily. For me. For New York and Washington. For a nation.
My five year old is currently obsessed with playing good guys and bad guys. How do you explain the kind of bad that I couldn’t even fathom until I watched the second plane hit? How do you explain that not all the good guys made it? How do you teach your children to be aware without passing on the fear?
I won’t avoid the coverage forever. Tomorrow morning I will get up. I will watch and observe the moments of silence in the morning. I will pray at church. I will remember what I need to remember for me. Then, I will bring the five year old to a friend’s birthday party and joyfully watch the small flames of five birthday candles flicker with the two very gifts of our freedom the terrorists most wanted to take away: hope and promise.
Despite the pain, despite the fear, despite the sadness, as long as we have hope and promise, they didn’t win.
And when I go to sleep tomorrow night, that will be what I remember.