The 10th anniversary reflection on Sept. 11 began for me over a month ago when my boss asked me to gather together the list of servicemembers northeast Indiana has lost in Iraq and Afghanistan since combat operations began in those countries post Sept. 11, 2001. I delayed it as much as I could and eventually, it became obvious I could do that no more. So, I put that list together and I searched our archives for those photos. And, I remembered each and every one of the 30+ servicemembers we’ve lost.
The reality of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 began for me on Friday, Sept. 9, this year. I worked. I went out to dinner with a friend/former co-worker. We laughed, we talked, we laughed (I think she laughed at me more than anything because I can be pretty animated). Then, I dropped her off at home and came home myself and I turned on the History Channel and, as it’s prone to doing, the History Channel was trying to put things in perspective. The channel’s special reviewed the events of Sept. 11, 2001 looking at the days that followed. The volunteers, the Muslims, the hatred of Americans toward Muslims, the searchers, the puppies searching, the flurry of folks looking for Americana decorations. It was good. It was what I probably needed.
I remember waking up to the planes flying into the towers. As a journalist, I knew that my day may have changed drastically, but it didn’t. I went about my schedule, which involved a Chinese restaurant for lunch with a source. He and I chatted and joked and laughed. But, out there, in reality, this “thing” was happening. This terrible, awful “thing.” This incomprehensible “thing.” It was an attack on America (most call it a terrorist attack, some will tell you one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter). Thousands were dead. No one really knew what happened. I was aware of the initial damage. Two planes, two towers, thousands dead. Two more planes, separate locations, hundreds more dead.
Now, 10 years later, the mass media has repeated those events over and over for hours, days on the anniversary date.
Friday night, I sat on my couch watching that History Channel special, not hysterical, but with steady tears streaming down my face. Watching the families of those who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald gather at a co-worker’s home to mourn and wonder. Watching the footage from the Islamic Center in Queens where threats were rolling in.
I sit now, at my computer, the TV on in the background, replaying the footage (b-roll) of that day. The talking heads chatting about it seem so ridiculous now. The supposition that it was an accident. That it was a small plane. How the hell could it be an accident? How could a small aircraft do that damage? How can no one know it was a jet, slated to travel cross country? Those towers went up like candles, and then crashed down in a cloud of smoke and debris.
In the 10 years since this happened I’ve developed friendships here in northeast Indiana and one of the most important friendships is a family that has had two sons join the military. One has subsequently cycled out..the other soldier is facing deployment again (having already served one tour in Afghanistan). I know someone who has been married but whose husband has spent more time on foreign soil than at home. I think that’s made it more real to me, closer. I have listened to friends talk about how they were affected by the attacks.
As a journalist, the person in me chose to see it as just a huge ass news story. A history making event.
Now, 10 years later, I’m 10 years older, I have relationships I value in ways I never valued relationships before and, I’m devastated, probably all over again, maybe for the first time.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing those bodies drop from the towers affected me then. The loss of life affected me then. But, I’m a different person now and all that is affecting me differently now.
So, I’m probably gonna spend today on my couch. Knitting at hand. Laundry to do. TV tuned to regurgitations of the events from 10 years ago. And, I’ll probably cry. Not wracking sobs as if I lost someone I loved, but the slow, streaming tears of someone who recognizes that it sucked hard, too many lives were lost and we’ve been at war for 10 years. That we lost 3,000 on that day and thousands more since, and who knows how many hence.
Osama Bin Laden is dead. Saddam Hussein is dead. But we keep sending our boys and girls over there and we will for who knows how long. And, there’ll be more loss. And, I’ll probably cry (again, not wracking sobs, but streaming tears).
God bless our servicemen and women. God bless our public safety workers and God Bless America.