Thursday, September 11, 2008


I imagine many people will post about September 11 today - whether it be a recollection of their experience, a commentary on the war or a general observation about how far (or not far enough) our country has come since that fateful day.

I remember asking my Mom about the JFK assassination for a school project many years ago. My teacher had told us that everyone who had a television or a radio would remember where they were and what they were doing when JFK was assassinated. Mom and Dad both remembered the shock, horror and powerless misery of that event.

Later, in a college psychology class, a professor claimed that our generation would remember the Challenger explosion with as much clarity as our parents remembered the JFK assassination. It's true - I remember being in the fourth grade and all of us watching the explosion over and over on a TV the teachers had wheeled into the cafeteria.

Sadly for our generation, another event came along to polarize our memories.

I was working part time for the Geography Department at ECU as the Graduate Secretary. The position allowed me to take classes during the day and I had stopped into a snack shop, the Croatan, to pick up a bagel on the way back to work. As I was paying for my breakfast I happened to see footage of the Twin Towers on the television sets that were placed around the eating area. At first I thought it was a tasteless video on MTV and remarked to the cashier that I thought it was tacky. She told me that it was real, that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center and we watched together as the second plane hit.

I ran back to my department, taking the stairs two at a time and rushed into the chair's office to see if he knew what was happening and to watch his television. All of the staff and faculty crowded together, piled on the arms of his leather sofas and leaning against bookshelves watching the news anchors attempt to make sense of a senseless act.

Finally, the chair announced that the university would be closing for the rest of the day and for us to go home to our families. I drove home, bewildered and anxious. The empty house held no comfort for me. I called family members. I watch Fox News. Eventually I drove over to a friend's house and together we watched the news for hours.

In the days and weeks afterwards I gradually weaned myself off the news channels. Life began to settle into normal routines. I was set to graduate in December 2001. A few close friends wanted to drive to NYC for New Years 2002 and visit Ground Zero. Sometime between graduation and that New Years visit I decided to join the Navy.

Every year the significance of 9/11 seems to grow weaker in the media. In a few more decades the anniversary may not even be mentioned. My daughter won't understand the feeling of horror and helplessness - and I hope she never does. I hope she never experiences an event that causes her to question her safety and security. I hope we can find a way.


JCK said...

It's the memories that keep us connected - be it JFK, the Challenger or September 11th.

Thanks for sharing your memories.

Madame Queen said...

I hope that I can help my children understand what happened, but I hope they never experience anything like it either.

Unknown said...

chills...I have chills reading everyone's stories!

Scribbit said...

My kids still remember it and say "that's the day that we say you crying". I guess they don't see that every day.

Matter Of Fact Mommy said...

thanks for sharing your story. i was, of course, living in DC and it was just such a traumatic experience. i remember looking outside the window of my office building - about 5mi from dulles airport - and not seeing any airplanes. while my coworkers and i weren't frightened for our lives, we certainly wondered what was going to happen next during that first hour and a half after the first tower was hit.