An innocent, anodyne, purely date-seeking question was posed to me this morning. But when I flicked over to the sidebar to check,
"Oh. It's September 11th."
Like most Americans, especially those around my age, I have a September 11th story. And they usually all start with a variation on 'I remember...'
I remember not long after, people (my parents?) saying this would be our Robert Kennedy moment. Our moon landing. We would all remember this day. And have a picture burned in our minds of exactly what we were doing when we found out. There have certainly been more traumas in the world since. If I was a Londoner, maybe it would have been the 7/7 bombings, or if I lived in Indonesia, the 2004 tsunami. And there will never be enough words on the amount of hurt caused by and still happening due to the 'War or Terror.' Basically, what I'm trying to get at here is the fact that looking at the date and feeling a rush of sadness and dread in the pit of your stomach when you realise it's 9/11, is a largely American reaction. No matter how much I try to shrug off where I come from, my relationship with that date will always be a reminder to myself that part of me is unshakeably American.
Both of my parents worked in Manhattan when I was a kid. It's an anecdote I still pull out to this day as I think it makes me seem cool and cosmopolitan. Hi yes my parents worked in the city while I was in diapers. I never remember seeing their offices but I assume I had been once or twice. I would have been 6 or 7 but I am genuinely disappointed I don't have any memories of visiting New York City proper when we lived just outside it. My dad took meetings in the World Trade Center. I feel like I need to come out here and say that none of my family or friends were directly affected by that day. Just in case this felt like it was building towards something like that.
By 2001 my family had relocated to Tennessee. I couldn't have been away from my Jersey days for more than two or three years. A vague announcement came on over my elementary school intercom. Slowly, one by one, parents were plucking students out of class. Noontime we were all sent home. I don't remember what whispers travelled around the school but I just remember getting home and standing behind the massive green sectional sofa in our living room and gazing at the news replaying footage of two smoking giants. And my dad standing behind me perpetually tying and re-tying his tie. I'm suspicious that the previous sentence is something that my memory has fabricated, but nonetheless, it is there.
I remember frantically calling second grade school friends whose parents I believed still worked in the city. And getting no answer and panicking because there was no answer. In a childish way, I think I was less desperate to know that Cate's dad was okay, and rather seeking a way to be a part of it. A part of the place I was still quite distraught we had moved away from. A part of a tragedy that I could bring to school the next day. An excuse not to go to school the next day. I can't blame myself. It's just a way kids can react to things. And who am I kidding–a way adults sometimes react too.