Twenty years later, still sorting out meaning
In a barn just off the corner of a state highway and a county route, a couple miles from my hometown, sits a purple 1998 Dodge Dakota that my brother bought new and subsequently sold to my father. Stuck to the back windscreen of that Dakota is a sun-faded pentagonal sticker which at one time had bright red outlines of the twin towers and words surrounding the edge of the piece reading “September 11, 2001 – Never Forget.”
On that September day, I was in the sixth grade. I would say it had started like any other day, but that would be untrue. From nearly the moment I got into class to the time I got home, nothing about that day was normal.
Watching the attacks on television in the classroom was, to say the least, an experience of a lifetime. The other kids around me were all visibly shaken and entranced by the spectacle on the screen.
In my head were thoughts of my brother and what had happened. I still remember breaking down in tears and hugging my teacher, Mrs. Wasson, for what seemed like forever.
Sept. 11, 2001, happened to fall during a ISTEP testing week. Having just witnessed the largest terrorist attack on American soil ever to be perpetrated, my fellow classmates and I were required to sit down and spend the majority of the day filling in bubbles on a Scantron card in response to questions of reading comprehension and mathematics.
After school let out, I walked home – something that seems so crazy today, but that was just how we did things in 2001 – and I went down into the basement where my father was sitting and watching news reports on the television. I just sat there, comforted by his company, and trying to make sense of it all, but I couldn't.
Twenty years on and it still doesn't make any sense.
Sense of unity on 9/12 has faded through years
When I look back at 9/11, I know where I was and I remember the people around me as we watched the horror take place. However, I also remember 9/12 and the sense of unity that day. The sense that we, as a country, were one entity united in our desire to care for one another, to reach out and help one another, the desire to protect ourselves, our families, loved ones and children. How we all cried out for an explanation, for guidance and healing. How vulnerable I felt and I imagine others must have felt in the aftermath of a tragedy we could not wrap our minds around. We wondered if there was more to come and what would we do?
I still can't wrap my head around those days, but I sure do miss that sense of unity and embrace of each other as we tried to come to terms with it.
Things sure have changed since 2001 and that sense, that feeling in our bones that things would be all right just has seemed to have faded away.
I'm not so sure anymore and I'm still afraid, especially for our children because there are adults who don't seem to want to protect them anymore. A simple cloth over our faces has become a threat to our Constitution and to our way of life.
I cannot wrap my head around this either, but I sure do miss that feeling of unity that came with 9/12.