As though there's any chance we could possibly forget.
We are scarred, but as with any scar, we remember, and we heal, and we get stronger.
I made the mistake of pausing too long on the History Channel, who was showing footage from that morning. Footage I hadn't seen in eleven years. I couldn't make myself change the channel, even though I really didn't want to watch it. Who would? It's horrible and it's already burned into my mind forever.
But something felt different, watching it, now. I had the perspective of age. When the towers fell over a decade ago, I was a junior in high school, smart but naive, and I had no idea what any of it was going to mean. But it almost wasn't real, it was happening a world away, to people I didn't know, lives I couldn't understand, horrors I couldn't fathom.
It's different, now. I work a 9-5 job in an office. I travel. I still can't wrap my head around what it would have been like, to go about your business, same as any other day, and suddenly have it be your last. Or to have your family ripped apart because one of your loved ones was in a tower, on a plane, or was a police officer or firefighter. I could relate to these people in New York, now, going about their business, just another Tuesday morning, not expecting the Infamous Event of Our Lifetime. (God, please let it be the only Infamous Event of Our Lifetime. I think the sky would fall down on all of us if it was only the first one.) I can start to grasp, start to understand, the bone-chilling terror of being on an airplane, headed to wherever, and then to realize what was happening, and God, the sheer awfulness of what those final minutes must have been like. (I just want to use the word horror over and over but I'm supposed to be a writer, I'm supposed to have more words than that. But I don't. Not today.)
It's worse, now, now that I can understand it, now that I can relate. The world is much smaller than it was when I was seventeen. Geographically, I haven't gone far, but that doesn't matter. The world has shrunk around me and I feel like I'm a part of it now.
Maybe it's better, that it happened when I was young. I was able to hold onto an optimism that is hard to come by anymore. I believed in better things, I believed things would turn out okay. Because at that age, all you know are happy endings, for the most part.
It doesn't matter. What matters is that sudden feeling of complete empathy that shot through my being as I sat there, clutching the remote, staring at a screen. It suddenly was no longer just a terrorist attack that catapulted us into this strange, new world of fear and power-struggles, it was no longer something that happened thousands of miles away. It's no longer about politics or war or everything that came after. For me, suddenly, it was about the people. The people in the towers, the people on the planes, the people on the streets, the people on the public transportation shooting amateur video out their window, the people running from the lower levels, the people reporting for duty. It was the emotions and the uncomprehensible surreality of it all. It was senseless and awful and the cause and effect ripples are still sending aftershocks to us today.
There was a shot of a lady sitting on a park bench, purse in her lap, tugging on her hair, burying her hands in her face. It said it all. It was happening in front of her very eyes, and she had no idea how to process it, what it meant, what to feel. That same feeling echoed across New York and across the country, as radios and televisions were turned on and a hushed silence fell over the country.
Yes, we all remember. We remember where we were, what we were doing, how we found out. We remember watching the towers fall and being scared and suddenly being especially grateful that our loved ones were safe.
We won't forget, because we can't. But eleven years later, I have a better understanding, a better sense of empathy.
It's weird, growing up.