remembering 9-11-01

I had forgotten the underlying impact and meaning of the numbers of today’s date… 9-11. Until I got on Facebook, that is. I no longer watch or listen to the news because of the inundation of negativity and I have cleared my Facebook friends list so that my focus is positive. And still, this morning, my newsfeed is filled with “never forget” memes and articles…

I’m going to try to put into words what I am feeling. I’ve written about my experience of that day in my book, Above the Clouds. Here is an excerpt:

When I moved to Salt Lake, I took a job working as an in-home customer service agent for an airline company. I stuck with it for nine months until I went to work for a local group of physicians. My first day with the doctors was September 10, 2001. Yes. One day before the lives of every United States citizen was irrevocably altered.

How do you explain to a brilliant, curious almost-four year old little girl that those people meant to crash into all those buildings and kill so many people? How do you console her when, for several days, she cries every time she sees a plane flying overhead? How do you comfort her when she’s startled by any loud noise that could be mistaken for an explosion?

Good lord, even as an adult, I couldn’t understand it. Yet, I had to help Kaitlyn get through those first few tearful weeks following the infamous terrorist attacks. I had to be strong for her, while I cried alone in the dark with no one to be strong for me. Once again, I felt like I was alone against the world and found myself wondering if I had lost my mind the year before when I had finally chosen to move back to my home state.

While Kaitlyn had been an infant, I had spent most of her first year panicked. It seemed she was trying to do things too advanced for her age and that she was trying to grow up too quickly. It seemed like maybe she knew she had very little time and that she had to get it all done. During her first year, I was terrorized, thinking she was going to be leaving before I was ready, that she was going to be taken back to heaven. That fateful day, September 11, 2001, brought my fears from her first years racing back to me with such ferocity I practically could not function.

The attacks brought into sharp focus how truly fragile and unexpectedly short life is. I felt the hands of time whirling around the clock too fast, out of control. It seemed to me that life was slipping by me and I felt as though I could not get a grasp on it, on myself. I began to question all I had been taught up to that point, all I thought I believed in. And the wondering, the questioning, the inquisition I was about to set out on would irrevocably change who I was.

My daughter has grown up in a world that has been irrevocably changed by the events of September 11, 2001. Day in, day out, she lives with the control that has been placed upon us in the guise of homeland security. The destruction that happened on that day is part of her daily existence now. She can never forget. I can never forget.

However, the control, the fear, and the homeland security are not the parts I want to remember. It isn’t the part that I want to “never forget.” In continually revisiting the violence that happened that day, we are continuing the violence. This nation has gone into overdrive and through the “security” – that verges on infringement – we are feeding the fear that detonated into existence that day. In looking at the morbidly impressive images of the exploding towers and the lone man falling through the sky, head first, and the people running for their lives through the streets of New York City, terror etched forever on their faces… all of that is compounding the horror of that day and bringing it into this day.

Hell, even reading this much of my post is doing that.

How do you write about that day without invoking the violence and fear? Even when you focus on only the peaceful images of that day and the beautiful stories of that day, they are starkly juxtaposed with the inherent terror that existed in that day, suspending the entire world in a tearful grimace of shock and disbelief. Because, if September 11, 2001 had been “just another day,” there would have been no noticing of the magic, miracles, and beauty of that day. That day would have gone on unnoticed as so many days before and since have gone on. That day would have simply been another Tuesday filled with “normal” violence and peace.

Children who were born September 12, 2001 will never know the world that once was. They will never know the naïveté we Americans were blissfully living with, believing we were indestructible, untouchable. They will never know the lingering goodbye at the airport gate. They will never know the joy of ignorantly thinking that you’re not being watched or listened to by “big brother” because now “big brother” is everywhere and everyone is talking about it.

Rumor has it that the terrorists chose the sites they chose because they wanted to hit America where it would hurt – in their economic and political centers. They wanted to bring us down to our knees in those areas. And… they just may have succeeded in that. Things really haven’t been that great since September 11, 2001. So… have we let them bring us down? Or have we brought ourselves down?

It’s a chicken and egg sort of thing, I believe.

What I know for sure is that the world – well, my world, here in America – is a very different place thirteen years later. And, although it is thirteen years later, I can still remember what I felt like exactly thirteen years ago this moment – 7:05 am MDT. I was getting ready to take my tiny, tow-headed daughter to preschool. She was eating breakfast. I was brushing my teeth and listening to the stereo. Life was good. My Kaitlyn was happy, go lucky, cheerful, wide-eyed, innocent, and secure. Within moments, the djs were reporting frantically that something unthinkable was occurring.

Within a blink, everything was irrevocably changed. News started trickling down the wire and then, no matter where you turned, it was everywhere. Suddenly, the entire nation came to a blaring, horrified standstill as we gawked at televisions and listened to radios with tears streaming down our faces.

Irrevocably changed.

No, I will never forget. And for that, I am so sad because this IS something I wish I could forget.

Not because I do not admire the men and women that helped those who were trapped, maimed, killed that day. Not because I am not moved by the stories of heroes and miracles that have come out of the depths of despair that day. Not because I don’t believe in the magic that was there, even there, in the middle of the awfulness.

No, not because of any of that.

I wish I could forget because, if I could forget, maybe it would mean that I could retrieve a shred of the innocence and naïveté that was torn from me and from my daughter that day. If I could forget, maybe it would mean I could stop being viscerally aware on a molecular level that danger is everywhere and I could begin believing again that unspeakable harm doesn’t really happen in the real world, even though I have survived my own violent hell – but that was just my marriage, it wasn’t the whole world… or was it? If I could forget what happened on September 11, 2001, maybe I could fully believe, once again, that all humans were created from love.


© Angie K. Millgate, 2014


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