I sat down about an hour ago to commit all my feelings about September 11 to paper. I tried to explain the ways that this day has shaped my life and my anxieties and my fears and grief. I made a real attempt at organizing the ways my understanding of this day has changed and heightened since becoming an adult, while time has simultaneously dulled the shock and fear I experienced that day through childhood lenses.
Perhaps those thoughts will be an essay one day. Perhaps not. It doesn’t matter. For today, it’s 2000 words of fear and grief and still trying to make sense of 6,000 layers of this doesn’t make any sense, even 18 years later . I still cannot wrap my mind around those towers falling, full of people, full of moms and dads. I cannot wrap my mind around planes crashing into buildings with pilots and passengers and screaming babies on board.
And in this same week that I celebrate joy and excitement facing a new chapter in my life, I am confronted with this day in new ways as I prepare to marry a commercial airline pilot. I’ve looked at this day a thousand times through those new lenses. A thousand times I’ve pictured that little airplane icon disappearing off a flight tracker map, knowing my future is sitting in the cockpit. A thousand times I remember that all of it happened to other people’s wives, husbands, parents, friends. All of it was real. And thousands of people’s futures disappeared like an airplane falling off a map.
Today is a lot of things for a lot of people. For me, it’s fear and anxiety and trying to remember a childhood when September 11 was just another day that I was still happy to be in school and probably thinking about my Halloween costume. For me, today is sorrow over those who are gone mixed with deep gratitude to still be here. Today is thinking about the men and women like my future husband who go to work proudly, respectful of their work and colleagues, proudly wearing American flag ties and smiles that tell passengers they love their jobs and that everything is going to be okay. Today is me thinking about being a normal person who happens to work in a tall building, 104 floors up, trying to return emails, all the while being an unknowing target of the unimaginable.
I don’t have anything to offer the world concerning this day that someone else hasn’t offered in the last eighteen years. I only know that my grief and disbelief surrounding this day only grows with adulthood and life lived, even as the memory becomes more hazy and distant with time.
I don’t like remembering this day, and yet I’m positive I don’t want us to forget either.
For the last eight of 18 years, I have taken at least ten minutes to read the most beautiful essay I’ve ever read. Brian Doyle’s “Leap” marks this day so rawly and poignantly, that there’s hardly anything else for me to say. Whether you read this post on Sept. 11 or Sept. 12 or Oct. 20-something, I hope you’ll take five minutes to read Brian Doyle’s “Leap” or listen to him read it here.
It’s not comfortable to remember, and yet, although I’m not altogether sure why, I feel it’s imperative we don’t forget.