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Thursday, September 8, 2011

It Was a Beautiful Day

Flight 93 (temporary) Memorial, July 2011
 If you ask anyone who lived in the Mid-Atlantic states about September 11, 2001, they'll start off by telling you how beautiful it was.  It was one of those September mornings that made you wish you could stop time and soak in the moment forever.   The sun was shining, the sky a brilliant blue and the temperature was just perfect.   It was a day that held so much potential, maybe a bike ride to work or a long lunch, perhaps a picnic with your kids after school.  

We lived in a Washington, DC suburb at the time and on the morning of September 11, Joey had been dropped off at preschool, Steve was at work, and I was busy finishing up a consulting assignment so I could enjoy the maternity leave I had planned for the upcoming months.   I remember listening to the radio as I typed my reports and hearing about a fluke accident where a plane (presumably small) crashed into one of the Twin Towers.   The moment of realization that there were two passenger jets each hitting a tower weighs heavily on me as it does a nation's consciousness.  Suddenly, as if all at once, everyone understood that the United States was under attack.  Instinctively wanting to be with their families, nearly all the parents who were able to, took their children out of Crossway Community Montessori School as soon as they heard the news.   After picking up Joey and making sure that Steve was on his way home,  I settled on our front steps and gazed at an eerily quiet sky which gave way to the unfamiliar streaks and sounds of military fighter jets headed towards the capital.

Calls to my family in NY reassured me that they were ok, shaken and distraught, but making their way home from the chaos in Manhattan.   Steve had left work early enough to avoid most of the confusion and traffic brewing in DC and was home with me and Joey.  Wanting to shield our 3 year old from the terrifying images on TV, we chose to listen to the radio instead, learning about the Pentagon, Flight 93 and the total collapse of the World Trade Center.   When it became too much to bear, we took a surreal walk to the park with our mentally challenged neighbor.  He would break the silence every so often, repeating "I think they did it on purpose."  My response "I think you are right" released the tears I had been trying to suppress all day.  

Now ten years later, it's been a week of tears with each news story commemorating the anniversary.   I still want to shield my kids from the constant stream of horrible images, but I am quite sure they are better equipped to handle it than I am.   For them, it is an important historical event, about which they are eager to learn.  For me, it was the most devastating day I had ever experienced and one I'd rather forget.   While listening to the stories of those directly impacted by the events of 9/11 makes me uncomfortable and sad,  I believe it is important for everyone to be able to tell their story.   These personal histories need to be remembered.  I would not want my story, that of a typical American family who were indirectly, yet deeply, affected to be dismissed.  This is a time of shared mourning and everyone should be heard.

So, on Sunday,  I will try to commemorate the events of 9/11 to the best of my ability.  I'll be with my children and will answer their questions honestly and without fear of them seeing my emotions.   I'll remind Alex that his middle name, Thomas, honors one of the heroic passengers on Flight 93.  I'll tell them that although the promise and potential of that beautiful morning was lost for thousands of people, more beautiful days are ahead of us and we are safe.

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