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9-11… when it is no longer a “memory”

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Friday, September 9, 2011

9-11… when it is no longer a “memory”

My grandparents had Pearl Harbor.

My parents had the assignation of JFK

I had 9/11.  The “moment” I remember. 

My mother can tell you exactly where she was when she learned J.F.K. was shot.  It was so important it has been imprinted in her brain… the people next to her, the thoughts, the smells….  J.F.K’s assassination is just text book history to me.

But, I can tell you where I was when the twin towers fell.  I was in this ratty college one room “dorm.”  It was actually a step down from a dorm.  I was student teaching and set to graduate college in December.  Because of that, I chose to live in “semester” housing. I was too proud to live with freshmen, so I ended up in the slums of my college… basically living in a dorm anyway.  I was not at work.  I was sick that day.  I remember waking up, turning on the T.V. and thinking, “oh … one of those dumb Steven Segal movies is on.”  I then saw Matt Lauer come on TV, and I remember thinking, “I can’t believe they got Matt Lauer to play himself in this movie.”

And then I watched the second plane hit the second tower. Live. And I realized I was watching the Today show.

My parents called me.  I lived close to Pittsburgh and my old college roommate and I used to travel to Summerset PA all the time.  We all checked in… to make sure everyone was ok.

I teach high school students and every year I have asked, “where were you on 9/11?” And students have been able to tell me.  I realize this year will be different.  Last year was the year I noticed the shift – those high schoolers were in first grade or kindergarten in 2001. Many of those students did not know.  It wasn’t their “moment”… it is the “moment” from my generation.  I know this year I will talk about 9/11 as a piece of history – no longer a living memory.  It is sort of sad to know that those students will learn about something so life defining to me – from a historical perspective.  We don’t share the collective memory.

I picked up a People magazine earlier this week.  The front cover talked about 10 children who were born following 9/11.  These children share a common bond – their mothers were pregnant with them and their fathers were killed that day.  I have an activity up my sleeve that should help them to connect to an event that still has far reaching ramifications today. 

But, I also plan to show this video.  Below is a video that will probably make you cry.  It is highly personal to me.  I remember returning to work the next day. (remember… I lived near Pittsburgh)  I remember driving to my student teaching assignment when this song came on the radio.  The D.J. had put clips from the previous day’s news into the song.  I had to pull the car over while the song played because it was so emotional – I couldn’t drive.  I think it captures the day perfectly. 


Do you still think about 9/11?  Or …. does it pass as “any other historical moment”? Do you have an idea about how to help people connect to something still so personal?


At September 9, 2011 at 10:33 PM , Blogger Tommy Oaks said...

I think about 9/11 a lot. I always have. I was in 6th grade. I can tell you my teacher and what I was doing the exact moment the announcement was made that there was a "disaster". I think it caused my generation to grow up within a day. As a 11 or 12 year old, you're at that awkward stage where you still want to play but it's not cool anymore. You are still a child but you're suppose to start acting older. Then boom. I realized the world wasn't really this big friendly wonderland that I once thought. My nephew, who was born in '03, has been watching anniversary specials on the attacks. I still can't watch..I get too emotional. But I know he has questions bubbling up inside of him. I just hope I can answer them.

At September 9, 2011 at 11:05 PM , Blogger Kisses4Kaylee said...

9/11 is forever etched in my mind. After receiving Kaylee's diagnosis, it was the worst day of my life~ it was the day I thought I lost my brother. I still recall vividly how a troubled student of mine walked carelessly into my class, 10 minutes late, waving a bag of Checkers cheeseburgers and laughing about "some plane that hit the World Trade Center." I was so annoyed that she interrupted my lesson-- not to mention curious to know where she got cheeseburgers at 9 in the morning-- that it didn't dawn on me that she had said that a plane hit the Trade Center. It was not until my principal came to get me...because my bitter ex-husband had called her to let me know that a plane had hit the South tower~ the tower where my brother worked on the 84th floor~ that I understood the significance of what happened. For the next 12 hours, I sobbed uncontrollably. I remember my mother's hysterical voice as she told me that her baby was dead (or so we believed, for how could he have survived when the plane had hit around the 83rd floor?); I remember trying to call my sister-in-law who had given birth two weeks earlier to her baby girl~ a baby who was due September 18th and I was convinced must have arrived just so her father could meet her; I remember feeling numb as my colleague drove me home and the radio announcer declared in a panic-stricken gasp that the South tower had just collapsed-- she cried out "there is nothing left of the South tower!" and I cried out, "Oh my God! Where is my brother?!" Through a miracle of God and an incredible instinct, he survived. The plane hit the North Tower, he could see the smoke, and he began his descent down with three colleagues. When they reached the 44th concourse, the announcement was made that the building was secure and it was okay to return to work; two of his colleagues took the elevators back upstairs. They died that day. My brother was on/around the 32nd floor when the plane hit, and he was just out of the building about 10 minutes before it went down. In my mind, that this could happen was inconceivable...and it saddens me to think that the children today-- our students, our children-- will never know a world where this kind of tragedy would ever be... inconceivable. Thank you for sharing the video~ it really is a poignant capture of the events and emotions of that day. As it is, I still feel a bit empty when I drive the Turnpike, look out at the city skyline, and see only emptiness.

At September 10, 2011 at 5:56 PM , Blogger Shannon said...

Yep, made me cry! I was housesitting for my Aunt and Uncle (they were in Europe with some more relatives). I had been lazy (I was 19) and slept in a bit, then finally turned the tv on in the afternoon and saw it. I couldn't move or think for a bit and couldn't believe that what I was seeing on tv was real. I called my parents and they told me they already knew, I have no idea why they didn't think to call me! My Aunts and Uncles and cousins and Grandma were all in Europe and had to stay longer because of the attack, but they really just wanted to be back home. I will never forget that day, it was so sad and scary and surreal.

At September 11, 2011 at 6:38 AM , Blogger Melissa and Luke Young said...

I have a vivid memory of where I was on 9/11 It is etched into my mind, and even all the way over here in Australia, it rocked me. I was so shocked by what happened... This video is moving

At September 11, 2011 at 7:24 AM , Blogger Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

Often. I was living an hour and a half north of the city that day and my then husband worked just outside. It took what seemed like forever for me to locate him that day. I have this sticker that my ex put on my car, that now that I live down south, seems silly, but every time I look at it, I remember.

At September 11, 2011 at 8:12 AM , Blogger Heather said...

I think of 9/11 often; along with the day we received our son's WHS diagnosis, it ranks as one of the two most traumatic days of my life. And I didn't even know anyone in NYC or DC at the time. Kisses4Kaylee's story was really intense. What great instincts her brother had, to leave early and keep moving even after they announced that all was secure.

I was 26 then and 8 months pregnant with my first child. I was working as a chemist in a lab, which required being on my feet most of the day. So I had just had my day reduced to six hours, and I didn't need to go in until 10am. A little after nine, I was home alone and turned on the news for a few minutes before leaving for work. They were covering the plane that had hit the first tower. It was strange and confusing, but while I was watching the live coverage, I saw the second plane coming across the screen and hit the other tower. I remember I fell forward as if hit myself, and an immediate chill covered me in goose bumps. I knew how horrible the situation was instinctively. I needed to leave for work shortly after that, and was so scared as I drove, listening to the radio news that a plane had hit the pentagon. My father was not working there at the time, but he had worked there in the past, and I was familiar with the building. I just couldn't picture how a plane could hit it. It's only five stories tall. Knowing it had been hit, and not understanding how, was what really put me over the edge. I was really terrified the rest of the day. We didn't have a tv at work, but the radio stayed on all day. It wasn't until I got home that evening, that I saw the horrific pictures. And it's still something I think of often.


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