Sunday, September 11, 2011

Five, Going On Sixteen

"All men are equal before fish." - Herbet Hoover

I was not going to write anything today. I was young enough ten years ago that I have very little to say. But then I thought that that is perhaps something of a unique perspective. Too young to be told everything, too young to really understand, but old enough to remember.

My uncle used to work in the Pentagon. Yes, on that side. He managed to find a working pay phone by the time I got home from school, so I was spared from the worst of my family's terror.

I remember the teachers whispering. I remember a boy (his name was Adam) from another class who had overheard their conversations shouting the news out to the rest of us. I remember a brief moment of anxiety, and I remember reassuring myself that bad things only happened to other families, as awful of a thought as that is. I remember staring thoughtfully at the American flag hanging over the board for the rest of the afternoon, to which we pledged our allegiance every morning at 9:15. "Terrorist" was added to my vocabulary.

There are people, both under 10 and over, who ask "What's 9/11?". There are people like my sisters who simply don't remember that day. And then there are people--many, many people--who will never forget. 

I haven't watched any of the news coverage today; that's for the adults. That's for the people who remember more than a few vague images and impressions. I read a book earlier this year, however, called Love is the Higher Law (by David Levithan) about several teenagers living in NYC in the days following after, which I found incredibly moving. It was strange to read about people only slightly older than I am now, dealing with the problems my location and age had miraculously allowed me to avoid. It put things in perspective more than anything I've read in the past few weeks.

My dad called my uncle today. He is redoing the drywall in his hallway. "I love you," my dad said as they neared the end of their conversation. "I love you too," my uncle replied. "Thanks for calling, bro."


  1. I found this profoundly moving. I don't remember hearing it at school (I might have, I was so little) - but I do remember coming home to see the news. When I was a bit older, I realized the horrific gravity of these events. One major reason I hate war (among countless others) is that it hurts not only one side and the other, but those who do not fight as well.

  2. I was living in Kansas at the time. All day long I'd been waiting for my mother to play this game with me(it had something to do with Ancient Egypt) just as she had finally put my sister and brother down for a nap my grandmother called. You see, she owned a television and we didn't. We never played that Egypt game.

    I know that my grandmother called my uncle first(he had lived in New York) and then my mother(who I think called her best friend who, as it turns out, could see the towers from her apartment.)

    The worst part was, well there were many worst parts, it was my father's birthday. My mother was trying to keep everything normal and happy but it couldn't really be done.

    For months/years afterwards I was terrified of airplanes flying overhead. Which was a problem because we lived next to an airport. Ironically, my father's present that year was a flying lesson.

    My grandparents, who live in England, didn't come to visit us for years because my grandmother was scared to fly.

    I also remember how right afterwards it was Bin Laden this and Bin Laden that. Then it changed to Hussein this and Hussein that. And I was so scared. I remember this swimming lesson I had and a helicopter was flying over head and the parents were all wondering if it was going to bomb us. Because Iraq's first target would, of course, have been a Kansas City suburb.

    I remember listening to the President speak about Iraq and how it made me feel safer. And I remember when I began to confuse Bin Laden and Hussein. And I remember ranting about the patriot act when I was ten.

  3. I have read that about five times now, and I still don't have the words.

    But I was thinking about your family yesterday, when I remembered you said it was your dad's birthday and I realized just what that meant. I can't even imagine.

    It's interesting, though, how you're not that much older than me and remember everything so much more vividly. I guess it helps that I was at school and thus very, very sheltered.


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