Monday, September 14, 2015

The Eleventh Day of September

I wanted to write down a few words in conjunction with the 14th anniversary of 9/11. But I had to work, and then drive two hours to visit my family. While in my hometown I was further distracted by nostalgia and the current book I was reading. But being back home reminded me of the feelings I felt that morning, a day that now marks the exact halfway point in my life. So here are a few words a few days late.

I was living with my grandparents in Richfield, UT, having just 4 weeks before moved from my life and friends in Phoenix. I was still emotionally akimbo. I was trying to be content with my new situation, but I longed for familiarity and a more certified belonging.

That morning my sisters and I arose early to get ready for school, and as usual the morning news was being watched by my Grandpa. But there was something different that cool morning, something was terribly wrong. I could tell something awful had happened before I saw the faces of adults in the room, or the contents of the television screen. I remember hushed crying and curious conversations. I saw the thick black smoke and knew that something terrifying had happened. But we had to go to school.

At school time seemed to slow down. We all remained in homeroom for what seemed like hours, glued to the small TV's affixed in the corners of the rooms. Among my peers, some of whom would become my best friends in the world, we watched reporters frantically announce that a fourth plane had crashed, United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

A few hours later I was in class and we were discussing potential political ramifications, and the fearful future of our country. As our bald teacher in his sixties opined on the consequences of the attacks, a girl suddenly and in a fit of tears and yelps realized her uncle worked in downtown Manhattan. Our teacher quickly gave her his cellphone and ushered her out of the room. She couldn't get through, and that hour-long class stretched on tortuously. She finally got word from her parents that he was fine. It seemed the whole world was in a sort of reverent panic.

Though I was 14 and interested in history and world events, it would take me a couple of years to really understand what happened that day. I recently got out the old journal page from that day. I was trying to make sense of the geopolitical side of things, writing down countries that could be guilty of this terror. One of them was written down as Palestinia. Clearly I was naive and uninformed in many ways, but I knew the world had been disrupted and changed forever.

Half a lifetime later, what can I say about this event? I have read dozens of books on terrorism and conflict in the Middle East, about foreign policy, and radical Islam. But I'm still at a loss, still in a stupor. I can't imagine what those who were more intimately involved feel. What I do know, is that moment in history brought people together. We realized the fragility of our times, and the repercussions of hate. We saw the devil incarnate that day, and we cannot forget. What I hope is that 14 years later this notion to "never forget" remains in our souls. The answers and solutions for ending worldwide terrorism are not at the door, and they are not simple or delightfully contrived. Some people are impelled to take up arms themselves, to join the forces and combat evil face to face. Others have chosen to get more involved in government. But if nothing else we can and should decide to love more, to work together more and hold on to the things we believe in. We should join hands when we can and embrace whenever possible. We should eliminate words of hate and delete any prejudice that we think is written within us. Of course we won't forget. But what have we learned?