I’ve spent the last few days preparing to write this post. I did not personally know anyone who was killed on that day, nor do I have any close association with New York, but September 11, 2001 affected me very much… as a human and yes, as an American. I’ll never forget what my experience was like that Tuesday, or for the weeks following – I don’t think anyone will. The things I watched on TV, the images in newspapers, the feeling that was in the air while out and about among others who had been seeing the same things… it was all an experience that is permanently burned into my memory. But that’s just it… it’s a memory. It’s the past.
After watching a multi-part documentary last week about the construction of the World Trade Center memorial, I was back in that place. I was filled with emotion, as I always will be anytime I return to the reminders of that time. Whether I re-watch David Letterman’s and Jon Stewart’s speeches during their first shows back, or discover eye-witness video accounts of the day on YouTube, or see news footage from the first days and remember the chaos and uncertainty that was so prominent during that time… if I embrace any of those things, I will always find tears in my eyes, because those things still evoke the same emotions in me that they did back then. Yet, they don’t evoke all of the feelings I had. Gone are the initial anger and fear. These are no longer open wounds that affect my everyday life, but the emotions that come with memory.
I had originally thought of putting down my experiences in this post as a historical account and emotional catharsis, but as I finally sat down to write, I realized that it was an unnecessary retreading of events for me. I will always miss my dog or my grandpa, both of whose deaths impacted me very deeply, but I have healed and moved on. I will have times of sadness that still come up, but it doesn’t hinder my daily life. Writing about September 11 in a way that I had originally planned would be disingenuous about where my mind and heart are, right now, because I am not feeling sorrowful or in need of memorial.
I’m in the middle of an interview process for a fantastic job (2nd interview is tomorrow), among other things God is blessing me with, and I feel more joy than sadness. That is why the image for this post is not one of destruction, or even one of the towers as they looked in the past, but of the future. That tree, known as Survivor Tree of the World Trade Center, was found amid the rubble created from the destruction of the twin towers. It was very damaged, but alive, and over the last decade it has been nursed back to health. The tree is now replanted in the World Trade Center memorial, going on with its life. Even those more closely affected by that day’s events than I was, move on. During the middle of new construction on the site, in the truest of New York fashion, what surrounded the fenced-off area? Street peddlers hocking their wares :).
Because today is today does not mean I necessarily feel what I felt 10 years ago. I will be watching memorials and retrospectives throughout the day, and I will remember, and I will probably cry. Considering how verbose and sentimental I am, though, the fact that I don’t feel like somberly reminiscing about the events tells me something. I’ve moved on. I don’t hold a personal vigil every year on the day I put Katie to sleep, and I couldn’t even tell you the date that my grandpa died. These events mean a great deal to me, they’ve informed who I am and can easily bring up an emotional reaction when I talk about them, but they are my past. They are a memory – one of sadness, but not one that still causes pain.