Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where Were You?

I’m pretty sure there is not one adult in America who doesn’t remember where they were on September 11, 2001.  The moments that we hear news that will change our lives...they are not easily forgotten. 

The last few days have been interesting.  Of course, thanks to media saturation, we can’t escape constant news about the killing of Osama bin Laden.  And although we keep hearing about “celebrations” across the country, the feeling I get from the people I’m in contact with is a more cautious acknowledgment that this has happened, with an underlying fear that something else could be on the horizon because we’ve finally accomplished what we set out to do.

In other words...most people think this may be the end of a chapter, but not the story.

September 11th is a part of each of our stories (more for some than others).  The number of people who were lost that day and since the war began...it would be almost impossible for each US citizen to not be affected by loss in some way.  At the very least, we all lost a world that we felt pretty comfortable with up until then.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I had no idea how much would change after that.  My oldest daughter had been born a week earlier and my dad had just flown in to meet his first grandbaby.  Just a few days before 9/11, we picked him up from the airport with a days-old baby, so excited that to be together and celebrate that moment.  While we were at the airport, the fire alarm went off in the baggage claim area.  No one was worried.  No one really did much of anything. 

A few days later, an alarm in an airport would forever mean something different.

On September 10th, I was in a car accident.  I was with my mom and even though my car was totaled, thanks to the carload of teenagers that had plowed into us, we both got away with minor scrapes and bruises.  And in my pre-9/11 state...I thought surely that would be the worst thing that could happen. 

The next morning, I stretched out in the nursery with that warm little newborn body next to me.  I was sore and trying to hold her without aggravating the burn marks on my arms from the airbags when my mom walked in and said, “We’ve been attacked.”

I will admit...in my new-mom, sleep deprived stupor, I really didn’t understand what she meant. 

I’m sure that what happened next is what probably 99% of America did:  We stayed glued to the television (until we finally couldn’t watch it anymore).  We scrambled to find out who we knew in the affected areas and double checked to make sure they were okay.  And we felt a sickening shock when we found out who wasn’t.

Stepping outside on 9/11, I remember thinking how completely eerie it was, not hearing any airplanes in the sky.

Being a former military man (and still working in the defense industry), my husband knew exactly what this could mean.  I started to get a hint of it when I had to call my insurance company that day about my car accident the night before and had a long conversation with a stranger on the phone, telling me that she was just terrified that her husband would have to go to war now.

I still wonder what happened to them.

It’s no surprise to me now that I went into some sort of postpartum funk after that.  I didn’t know it was going on at the time, but I can see it now.  Bringing a new baby into the world and then wondering how you can possibly protect her is a lot to take.  My husband started traveling more after that, for longer periods of time and there was never a moment that I would kiss him goodbye at the door when I didn’t wonder if it would be for the last time.  Things changed, and it baffled me to think that my daughter would never know what the world was like before 9/11.

Not being able to walk someone to the gate at the airport.

Not being able to think of 9/11 as just a date on the calendar anymore.

Not being able to ignore that fact that bad things can happen to good, unsuspecting people.

I am not a very political person.  I never get into debates with people about what’s going on in the world because, frankly, I don’t feel educated enough.  Nothing makes me crazier than when people who don’t know what they’re talking about speak as though what they’re saying is fact.

So I choose not to be one of those people.

But as just a random, joe-schmoe citizen, I can agree with those who say they’re relieved that the world is short one Osama bin Laden, but can’t in good conscience celebrate the death of another human being.  I don’t need to see coverage of where he was killed or how they hunted him down.  I don’t need to watch interviews of the 9/11 widows where the interviewer expects them to say they now have “closure”...when we all know that is just a myth. 
I don’t want to know if killing a terrorist will be a career boost for the President.

I would rather keep honoring and remembering those good people we lost on that day and in the years since, rather than give power to the memory of a man who has brought so much pain to so many.

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© Catherine Tidd 2011

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