That Day, and Today

September 11, 2015 § 1 Comment

This morning I woke up in Madison, WI in the bed I share with my husband, and as I am wont to do first thing, reached over and  picked up my iPhone. I pulled up Facebook and immediately thought, “Oh. It’s today.”

Before we moved out here, Mr. B and I lived with my parents for a few weeks while we waited out the interim between move out/move in dates. As part of our thank you, we started digitizing the boxes of old tapes they had sitting in their living room and garage. Home movies were mixed with shows and music videos and specials taped off tv in the days before TiVo (DirectTV for those who don’t remember TiVo). One tape was simply marked “9-11-01” and I had always been curious about it but hadn’t wanted to put myself through watching it in case it was what I thought, that my mom had had the forethought to record the news that day.

She hadn’t; of course she hadn’t. She had seen the news, called her husband who told her he could see the smoke from the Pentagon down the street but he was ok and trying to make his way home, and then she did what all our parents did that day if they could: she immediately left to gather her children, to have them close and hug them and feel that they were alive.

It was a 6 month anniversary special, aired in March of 2002. In my mind, 2001 and 2002 are so many gulfs apart I had completely forgotten that in March of 2002, it had only been six months.  The special did what it could given the emotional proximity of the event, but what really struck me was the local news afterward. They discussed how well Maryland was doing leading up to the Final Four, and the exciting possibility of facing Duke for the ACC championships. They switched topics, and began the next with, “And as it looks like the War in Afghanistan is drawing to a close…” And I sat down.

We didn’t know.

We didn’t know the War in Afghanistan was going to drag on so long it would become our longest war in American history. We didn’t know our wars would create so much chaos.

We didn’t know that later that year we would be terrified by the randomness of the DC sniper’s three week reign of terror. We didn’t know that Columbine was only the beginning, or that mass shootings would eventually become so common that friends in casual conversation might say, “we were talking about… what shooting just happened?”

We didn’t know that Maryland was going to beat Duke in the championships, or that Maryland students would riot in the streets of downtown College Park, burning couches and causing havoc in their exaltation.  I didn’t know that those 2002 riots would be a constant topic of controversy and conversation while I was at school. I didn’t know I would go to UMD, or how my college experience would change me. I didn’t know that my future husband was in the same high school hallways as me on 9/11, or that in fourteen years we would live in Wisconsin and I would be finishing my second week of grad school, feeling strangely that for the first time since that day I forgot it was 9/11.

In those first days and weeks and months there was so much we didn’t know. And so much now, that we can’t know about what could have been or what will be. We didn’t know, before 9/11, just how tenuous our place in the world was. I didn’t, anyway. I didn’t know how worlds can change and fall and never look the same again. I was fourteen.

This year is a strange one for me. I couldn’t have told you in January where I would be now, and I am feeling the tenuousness and randomness of this life more than usual in my anxiety-addled heart. I am mourning things lost, and inspired by things to come. I am having trouble living in the moment.

But today, forgetting the gravity of the day and then remembering, has been an important reminder for me to live in the moment, even if that moment is strange and uncomfortable. Be in the moment knowing, not that it could be your last, but that we can’t know what comes next.

And that simply is what it is. Life in the day-to-day makes life in the long run.


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