September 11th has only fallen on Sunday twice prior to today since the attack 15 years ago. Once in 2005 and again in 2011, the ten year anniversary.
I didn’t attend church either of those years.
To be fair, in 2005 my doctor already ordered me on bed rest, so I couldn’t attend. And in 2011, well, I can tell you without knowing for certain that I just didn’t want to go. Still attending—or rather, not attending—our previous church, I didn’t want to listen anything that pastor had to say about that day.
We went to church today.
We talked of remembering and what that means for our present, our future.
Children entering the third grade also received their bibles, a thing that happens every year. When our Pastor asked who remembered receiving their third grade bible, our older son raised his hand. So did the little boy in the row in front of us. Our younger son seemed quietly excited to receive his and asked for my help in finding the verses later in the service.
We went about our day quite normally. We took a nap after church, which was actually a suggestion for things to do today. I caught up on laundry. We hung around the living room, watching football. We made dinner together.
Just before we finished making dinner, BigBrother came into the kitchen.
“Why are we watching football?”
“It’s Sunday, and the first Sunday of the season at that.”
“But we normally watch the stuff about nine eleven.”
I stopped moving and looked at him, turned my head like a puppy who hears something new. He’s right. Normally we leave the TV on all day and let the documentaries on the History Channel run in a constant loop. We have done so every year he can remember, and did so before he entered this world. It felt like a way to remember, to honor, to grieve.
But sometimes it also feels like tragedy p0rn. Like subjecting ourselves to it over and over is some kind of entertainment as opposed to a reminder of the darkest day in our nation’s history. Like watching people die over and over desensitizes us to the true horror. It’s hard to figure out where that line is, and I’m one hundred percent certain it’s different for every individual, every family.
And so I looked back at my son.
“Would you like to watch it after dinner?”
We cleaned up our dinner, fed the dog, and then made our way to the living room. 15 Septembers Later came on the History Channel, and we watched with new interest. Maybe it’s because previous years aired the same footage, the same documentaries, over and over. Maybe we tire of seeing the same thing, hearing the same thing. It’s always the same outcome: unimaginable loss. Maybe sometimes it affects our mental health in negative ways and we end up feeling hopeless instead of grateful for what we have.
Maybe it’s all of that or nothing like that. I don’t know.
But tonight, as both my husband and I learned new things about that fateful day and the boys asked questions as they, too, learned new things, I felt thankful for the fact that BigBrother brought it up. They ask very thoughtful questions about that day, and I expect their questions will grow and change and mature with them as they grow and change and mature.
What I realized today is that 15 Septembers ago, I couldn’t have imagined this life, now. Back then, a junior in college, I sat on the bench outside the sorority dorm in which I lived, smoked cigarettes, fielded calls from family and friends and those studying abroad, and desperately tried to track down my Aunt who worked in the World Trade Center. I did eventually, one of the lucky ones.
Back then, and especially because of that particular day, I switched into, “I never want to have kids” mode. I began to question everything. God. Society. Government. Relationships. I couldn’t have predicted I was months away from meeting the many I would someday marry. That fifteen years later, I’d have a daughter, two sons, a dog, three chickens, a home in a lovely neighborhood, a series of careers which grow and change with me, and a circle of people who accept me for who I am, even on the bad days.
The boys and I chalked some Pokemon characters before dinner time. Nope, wouldn’t have predicted that one. This life is nothing I could have imagined 15 years ago. And I hate that so many lost their lives that day. I hate that we sent our sons and daughters to war and far too many didn’t ever come home. I hate that we still live in fear of people because they look or believe differently from us.
But I love raising boys who feel safe enough to ask questions about something they don’t understand.
I never asked my parents or grandparents about World War II; my Grandfather’s brother was killed by a sniper. I feel like I lost a piece of history when both he and Grandma passed that I can never get back. I want our boys to have our first hand accounts, to know what we were doing, to understand that their Daddy was deployed because of the war, that he was safe because Bush declared the war prematurely over, that it was a really strange and confusing time for so many years after, that we still don’t really understand everything and that it still hurts on so many different levels. I love that they ask. I love that we answer.
When the documentary got to the part about Flight 93, they played one of the answering machine recordings the boys listened to on our recent visit to the memorial.
“Hey! That’s the one I heard.”
And that is the next generation, the one who wasn’t even thought of yet, remembering. We will raise them to remember, to honor, to tell the next generation upon our parting. We will never forget. We will keep talking. We will keep watching. We will keep reading.
We will do our part to keep their memory alive.