Monday, September 11, 2006

We all have a story, we all have a memory

He was an older gentleman, dressed in his state trooper uniform. His genial smile greeted me everyday as I rushed past him to clock in. He sat behind the plexi-glass wall surrounding the customer service center of the grocery store that served as my part-time job in high school. My assignment was to interview someone on where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In a moment of irony I choose him, the security guard, who also happened to be named John Kennedy.

He wasn’t an eyewitness, his story was like so many others, the news was abrupt, the new reality shocking, and his life was changed on that day if only in a small way. He remembered with clarity the details of where he was when he heard the news, the feelings and thoughts that assaulted him with the realization that the president had been shot. And years later, recounting that day to me, the emotions, the memories were still fresh.

In my paper I pondered what event would so define my generation, would it be another senseless act of violence that claimed our memory, which resonated within us for a lifetime. Had we already experienced that generational marker in the Challenger explosion, in the Oklahoma City bombing, in the tragedy of Columbine and other such acts of student violence? Could I have imagined over ten years ago that each of those events would be eclipsed by such an act of terror? Would I have known that my generation would one day face a question from our grandchildren of “Where were you on September 11?”

It was the fourth or fifth week of the school year. Elementary students were arriving for chapel and parents streamed in and out of the office. Still learning the ropes as the sole office staff, that morning was busy with phone calls, questions, and the busyness of the morning. A teacher called to say he was running late, a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center and he was watching the news. I told him I would pass on the message to our principal. At that moment, I’m not sure I gave much thought to the event that would prove to be the beginning of a day we would never forget. The morning was busy, there were many things to be done, and now I had a class of students to supervise until the teacher came.

Another phone call, it was the same teacher telling me another plane had crashed into the other tower of the World Trade Center; the news anchors were calling it terrorism. In the next few moments, my morning changed, our world changed. I ran into my principal’s office to tell her what happened as parents who had heard the news on the radio poured into the school. The normal activity of the beginning of a school day came to a stop as we all were transfixed by what was happening in New York. Conditioned to expect easy access to immediate information, I turned to the internet to answer my questions. Apparently, so did everyone else, because website after website would not connect. A radio was found and we were now experiencing the events as they unfolded. Standing in the office with three other employees we listened in disbelief as the chaos continued and news anchors struggled to relay events as they occurred and suppose why this was happening. I remember feeling shock, fear, and disbelief at what we were hearing. An employee said we should pray, and so the four of us grasped hands and did the only thing we knew to do at that moment, ask for someone greater than us to be in control.

The rest of the day was spent calming parents who feared other attacks. The truth was that we were in little danger, and yet any sense of safety was quickly erased with the changing reality. Many students went home, some because their parents feared what could happen next, and others because in a moment like this having your family close at hand brings comfort beyond understanding. A small television was brought into the office and we watched the news throughout the day as the tragedy only continued. School continued, math lessons were taught; lunch was eaten on the playground. Many of our students had no idea what had happened or they could not understand how the world changed for them on that day.

The days and weeks following were an odd combination of normal life existing in a different world. School continued, work continued, each day started anew with the same responsibilities and yet each day was different than before. The shadow of such an event invaded each activity. Our world was changed, we were changed. Our life would always be referenced by this point in time, a date that would not pass without memory.

And so today we cannot help but remember where we where, what we were doing, and how our lives changed five years ago. That is the legacy of September 11, we all have a story and we all have a memory.

7 Comments:

Blogger Aim Claim said...

I will remember.... always.

9/11/2006 12:33 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Good post... don't really have a comment. It's interesting to read how people experienced that day differently... yet the same.

9/11/2006 12:50 PM  
Anonymous jes said...

Reading the tributes to those who died, and reading these stories of remembrance - they make me sick. It's akin to reliving that horrible, horrible day, week, month, year, past years all over again.

9/11/2006 1:32 PM  
Blogger Amstaff Mom said...

Very well written, thank you for sharing your memory.

I can't imagine what kind of memories this day brings to those in NY, PA and Washington D.C.

Just can't imagine.

9/11/2006 2:00 PM  
Blogger steve said...

I am watching the live footage as it unfolded that day. The first couple hours of CNN's coverage. Man it is just bringing all that back. I was at home getting ready for work. I ended up goign to work and we all just watched it on the internet. I remember telling everyone that called if they "had heard what happened"

prayers

9/11/2006 3:26 PM  
Anonymous Jayleigh said...

Thanks for sharing this, Katie. I won't ever forget sitting at the foot of my bed in utter disbelief and calling my husband at work to tell him. I put the phone to the TV and he put it on speakerphone at the office.

I remember that entire day, and that whole week. How awful and I will never forget it.

9/11/2006 8:07 PM  
Blogger Tim Rice said...

That day I think I was in a state of disbelief and asking what in the world was going on. From that morning on, I got in the habit of turning on a local news radio station in the morning while I got ready to go to work. Now, I often wonder though if our world and especially our government hasn't over-reacted to that act of terrorism. Now our whole national policy seems to be shaped by terrorism. I don't think that is good.

9/12/2006 11:57 AM  

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