It’s that time of year again, when we are bombarded with reminders to remember. I am always a little offended by these notices. I don’t need anyone to tell me to remember where I was or how I felt on the morning of September 11, 2001. I feel like, if you have to be reminded, maybe it wasn’t as significant to you as you’d like the world to think it was.
I was sleeping that morning, with my nearly 2-month old firstborn daughter in one arm, sandwiched between myself and her father. My phone rang, splitting the silent room with its piercing noise, and I fumbled for the button to answer before it woke the baby. My brother Colin, in a small quiet voice, said, “we’re at war, Heather. We’re being attacked.”
I remember feeling panic in my chest. What does that mean? Who is under attack? Is it safe to go outside?
We didn’t have a television, so we bundled up our child and rushed to my mother’s house. We arrived just after the first plane struck the World Trade Center, and we watched in horror as the second plane struck the second tower. Another plane struck the Pentagon… and then another plane crashed, its heroic passengers responsible for preventing further attacks, upon the Capitol building or the White House.
All day, I held my tiny daughter and watched the instant replays, video coverage of injured victims and response teams. I distinctly remember thinking, “what kind of world have I brought my child into?” I remember feeling scared, not knowing whether the attacks were over. I remember that the skies were silent, with all air traffic suspended, and that the world felt different when we set out for home that night.
I remember that Drew and I took a weekend trip to Charleston, SC on September 15th, and that my mother didn’t want us to go, because it is a port city and therefore, a potential attack site. I remember the hysteria and the fear and the paranoia of the days and months that followed.
I remember the vengeful way our country went to war, flashing clips of the World Trade Center attacks to distract us from the pointless “shock and awe” campaign we waged against a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
I remember it now, when I think about my little brother Zeb, stationed in Afghanistan, trying to save lives amidst the din of gunfire and rocket blasts. I remember it every time I think about how desperately I want to see my brother come home, and how many brothers, husbands and sons never came home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
We all remember the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, just as we should remember the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor. The effects and the trauma from both events lives on, in us and in those we’ve lost and those who carry on. It shapes who we have become, as a country and as individuals… soldiers and politicians and parents alike.
Personally, I watched those horrific images enough on September 11, 2001 to last a lifetime, and I don’t have any desire to watch the tragedy unfold again.
I don’t need the media to remind me. I never forget.