Post Originally Published On 09/11/11
Today is September 11th. Over a decade has passed since the unfathomable terrorist attacks that left the United States stricken with grief, yet also united in our steadfast love for our country.
For two weeks I’ve been composing this post in my head, and I could never seem to get past that first sentence. There’s so much to say. So much to feel. So much to think about. But I can’t find the words. 9/11. Ten years later. It’s still so raw. It’s still an open wound for our country. Have we recovered yet from the devastation of that day? I don’t really know. Personally, I can’t look at the barrage of photographs that have resurfaced to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks without swallowing back tears. I have yet to feel a sense of closure. Does anyone feel closure?
Ten years ago today, I was a teacher’s assistant in a combination first- and second-grade class. I’d been married just over a year, I hadn’t even considered having children yet, and my status as a military spouse was questionable. My husband was a reservist at the time, and his participation in the military didn’t affect my life in the least. Technically I may have been a military spouse, but honestly, I had never even heard that term. Even if I had, I probably wouldn’t have given myself that title. It didn’t seem to fit, didn’t seem an appropriate job description on my resume.
I was roaming around my classroom helping students with seat work when the teacher I worked with was called to the office for a phone call. When she returned, her face had lost all color and she seemed flustered. She pulled me aside and whispered in my ear that it was her husband on the phone that he called to tell her a plane had just crashed into one of the twin towers in New York. We turned on the television in our classroom and watched the news reports as if we were watching a movie with dramatic Hollywood special effects. It didn’t seem real. But it was real. Too real. And when we noticed the confused expressions on our students’ faces, we hit the power button. We didn’t feel it was our place to expose 6- and 7-year-old children to such a tragedy. How do you explain that to such a young child when it’s nearly impossible to explain it to yourself as an adult?
I rushed home after work and sat glued to the television the rest of the day. I desperately tried to make sense of it all. When my husband came home, I asked him if this meant he was going to war, but he assured me that no, he wouldn’t be going to war. And even after hours and days and weeks of news coverage and replayed videos and heartbreaking photographs, I never gave much thought to how September 11, 2001, was going to affect my life in the years to come.
But that day did affect my life in more ways than I can count, as a wife, a mother, a friend, and an American. My husband became an active duty service member a year after the 9/11 attacks. I’ve lived through his deployments. I’ve coped with single parenting my children during their father’s absences. I’ve consoled friends as their husbands deployed. And I’ve heard too many stories of wounded warriors and lives lost. My formerly questionable status as a military spouse is no longer in question. I accept that title and wear it proudly.
Now here we are, September 11th, 2011. I think back to that day 10 years ago when I attempted to shelter a room full of 7-year-olds from a tragedy that I myself, at 25-years-old, wished I could hide from. Back then I wasn’t a mother, and I wondered how the parents of my students were going to explain the unexplainable to their children. Now ten years later, I find myself a mother with a 7-year-old of my own. And it’s no easier to explain.
Ten years ago, our country was attacked. We all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. I will always associate that day with the innocence of children. I try not to think about the fact that a decade has passed, and those young children whose faces are still etched in my mind, are now nearly old enough to fight in the war we’ve been fighting since the last time I saw them. And I try not to think about another decade passing when my own son will be nearly old enough to join the military. Will we still be fighting this war? Will the United States ever find closure? Will the 9/11 wounds ever heal?