Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 Changed Our World

As any adult who witnessed the terrorist act, I remember clearly where I was and what I was doing. I was teaching pre-school that morning. Joy School. I had a house full of small children at the time. My TV was off. No radio was blaring. I was blissfully unaware that a tragic event was unfolding as I was singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with the group.
My answering machine picked up the call, as it often does. It was my sister, her voice in a panic. "Have you watched the news? An airplane has hit a building in New York." It wasn't the Twin Towers to any of us then. No one in my circle of friends was familiar with the landmark. New York City wasn't in our vision. Our vision was focused on mountains and schools and local churches. New York City was a foreign country. Not even remotely attached to the life I was living. Everything changed that day.
"Play time." I said brightly. The children squealed with delight and headed down the hall to a room full of toys. While they were occupied, I flipped on the TV set and watched a familiar scene play out. Two more calls were fielded by my answering machine. Another sister and my mom.
I didn’t pick up the calls. I was riveted by the scene unfolding before me. I'd seen this three previous times - in dreams. The airplanes hitting the buildings were exactly as I'd seen them. I'd wondered at the time what kind of symbolism rode in planes crashing into buildings. What psychological pain was I carrying to be sending me such a vivid and terrifying dream? And here it was playing all over again. I had always started awake after the planes hit and I saw people running in terror away from the burning buildings.
I'd never seen the scene that followed. I stood, shaking, as I watched the beautiful tall buildings collapse in on themselves. I'd only seen buildings collapse like that in planned demolitions. To watch it happen knowing there were living people inside was anguishing. I felt for them. I felt for their families. I felt for all the other millions of people around the world watching the events unfold.
As the children wandered into the living room to play with their chosen toys, I shut the TV off. I didn't want Joy School to be emblazoned in their minds as the place they learned about the evils mankind can visit upon each other.
A neighbor called, wanting reassurance and another adult to talk to. Once again, I chose to not involve the children in the event. I suggested she could come over after Joy School was over, but I didn't want to talk about the events in front of the children. Our horror could wait. It had to. This was an adult tragedy beyond any I had experienced. It wasn't something I had a right to traumatize the children with.
I don't know how my children feel about that day. We don't talk about it a lot. About the attack. About the eerily silent skies for days after the event while planes were forbidden to fly.
Our world has changed. Our children will never know a world where the United States was never attacked. Hawaii wasn't a state yet when she was attacked. As horrible an event as Pearl Harbor was, Hawaii wasn't part of the Union. New York City, even though she was outside my peripheral vision, is America. We were attacked. Life will never be the same.


  1. Very well said. It will never be the same, but if we all work at it, it can be better because of what we've been through.