Today is always a tough day for me. Every year I think it’ll be better, but it’s not. It never gets better, it just gets different. It might seem a little odd that a suburban girl from Alabama with no ties to New York or Washington would be so deeply affected, so grievously wounded by something that, if we’re honest, had nothing really to do with me.
For God’s sake, I’d never even been to New York. I was sixteen years old. Just a child, looking back, though I’d never have admitted it then. A senior in high school. It’s a tender age for one’s entire world to change.
It strikes me at odd times. Not just when older TV shows or movies have the towers in the background. Sometimes when friends in the military post stupid Facebook statuses, or when I watch my sons industriously stack blocks, or in the gentle consuming quiet of the night. I never knew a single person who died that day, but the point is that I never will. And I have wept bitter tears for it.
I wish I could explain the deep ache in me for this. Perhaps it’s all we’ve done since then in the name of freedom and safety. Maybe it’s the profound hate that’s sprung up from the rubble. Maybe it’s the constant sacrifices of our young men and women to the insatiable god of war. Maybe it’s the feeling that something deep and vital was broken that day and never did heal up right. Maybe it’s the knowledge that my sons will one day be old enough to ask me about it and the fear of the day that they’ll understand it.
I’ve talked about this a little bit before. If you don’t care to follow the link, the important bit is this: “I will never be able to adequately explain to my children the profound grief of that day and of the days that followed it. Or of the near-decade of anger and frustration of a nation as we kept sending our young people out to defeat what could not be defeated, to continually break ourselves against misunderstanding as waves against rocks.”
And perhaps that’s really it. I was old enough to know what was happening, but not so old as to be able to find the edges of it. It was too big for me to get a hold of on the day, and as I get older, I get closer and closer to coming to grips. It’s the knowledge that I could do nothing to stop it, but the feeling that I somehow should have. It’s the feeling of missing people I never got the chance to meet. It’s the burden of someone else’s hate.
So today is a day that makes my heart hurt. I suspect it always will.