7 p.m., and the restaurant was silent.
Strange how that minor detail sticks out the most in my mind from that horrific day 10 years ago. After a perfectly normal day in seventh grade – I’m not sure why Harrington Middle School decided to keep us all in the dark, but the staff and faculty have had to been the best actors and actresses in America, as we all went about our daily routine without knowing anything was wrong – I was greeted at the door by my mom in tears.
As she explained what had happened and how our country, our world would be haunted forever by this morning, I felt emotionally numb and didn’t quite grasp the severity of what had happened. I was a naive, selfish seventh grader – my problems revolved around lunchroom politics and that traumatizing moment earlier in the week when I fell flat on my face in front of my infinitely-cooler middle-school crush. (Shortly after, he transferred to a different school in the area and the next time we saw each other was during spring break in Ft. Lauderdale, nine and a half years later. Life’s strange.) Watching those images of the planes, the fire, the people running for their lives and jumping to their deaths, it seemed surreal, like I was watching a horror movie on repeat. It wasn’t until my family and I entered the local Prospector’s to get dinner and were greeted with nothing but the occasional plate clatter, drone of a news reporter and muffled sob that I knew this was real, and there was no happy ending.
Every emotion hit at once: pain, fear, confusion, mourning of a family friend whose remains were found in the rubble weeks later – he worked on a lower floor and had the chance to escape, but stayed inside to help others get out. One of many heroes. I honestly don’t know how else to describe how I felt in the aftermath of the attacks other than the overused words above, but when such a tragedy has such a universal impact on life as we know it, what else is there to say? How do you make sense of a world full of evil?
Piled upon all these emotions was a startling flashback: just two weekends before, my family and I made one of many frequent voyages to visit our relatives in NY to celebrate Labor Day, and while I usually spent the two-hour journey with my nose buried in a book, that particular ride I looked at the NYC skyline, particularly the WTC, for a really long time before thinking to myself “Why am I staring so much? Its not like they’re going anywhere.” Dead serious. One of the creepiest moments of my life.
Now, ten years later, after growing up in a changed world full of insecurity and fear, we relive it all. The image montages set to sappy music, the anecdotal lead of the victim’s father/wife/brother/uncle recalling a touching memory of their bereaved before pulling back to the broader issue of how 9/11 affects us today. Honestly, I was tempted to post the Family Guy Undecided Voters clip – “Mrs. Griffin, what about our traffic problem?” ”NINE … :baited breath: … ELEVEN. :raucous cheering:” – and for one particularly sadistic second, The Mysterious Ticking Noise, on FB, just to add some humor to this bleak bombardment.
Jaded? Maybe, but I’m weary of the media jargon that accompanies the anniversary of 9/11, especially this one. Obviously, we should honor it, but it all seems a bit overkill, and while I certainly HOPE no media outlet’s motive for a certain type of coverage is for higher ratings or increased website traffic, the thought always lurks in the back of my mind. Age is just a number, and for those who lost someone, the tenth anniversary is no great milestone, its just another day without their loved ones. We should take a second or two every single day to be grateful that we’re alive and have people who care about us, and not wait until the media tells us to remember.
A few days ago, I stumbled upon an article (on nj.com, I think?) discussing the results of a poll declaring that more than half of New Jerseyans weren’t doing anything “special” for 9/11 (attending a public ceremony, etc.), as if it was offensive. Why is there an innate obligation to stare at a politician while looking solemn with hundreds of other people to properly pay your respects? I silently paid tribute to the victims and heroes, reflected on how lucky I am to be living in the land of freedom and moved on. I, and thousands of others, honored it in our own way – if we are judged for not “properly participating” in the circus, so be it.
I had a hard time writing this post, for utterly selfish reasons. How well-written it’d be, how I’d make it insightful and “stand out” from the thousands of others posts reflecting on this day. Then, I realized that THIS ISN’T ABOUT ME. Its not about my grammar or self-centered expectations, nor is it about media ratings or political agendas or who stood in what particular field looking appropriately solemn. Its about those innocent people who died because of hatred and those heroes who sacrificed their lives to try and save them. So without any other grand insight or verbosity, I dedicate this post, and my thoughts and prayers during the 10 minutes or so remaining on this day, to the victims of 9/11 and their loved ones. RIP.