Writing about 9/11 is hard for me. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was in our family room, talking on the phone to someone who was at the airport. He was telling me that his flight was delayed—something about a plane flying into the World Trade Center. It didn’t make any sense. It was so outlandish that I was sure he was mistaken. We went on with our conversation.
It wasn’t until an hour or two later when I was driving to a meeting and I heard the reports on the radio that I even began to get some idea of what happened. It was still hard to believe. It took a long time for me to truly understand that something had gone terribly, horribly wrong in the world.
I know people who died that day. I know people who might have died that day had their schedule been just slightly different. We were changed that day, as individuals and as a country. As the towers fell, as the reports came in from Pennsylvania, as we learned about the crash at the Pentagon, things shifted in a way, a personal way, we couldn’t have imagined a day earlier.
We talk about remembering all sorts of tragic events. Of never forgetting. But for many of us, those events are in the past—somewhere further than our own memory can stretch. We remember of the event, not being in the event. We weren’t there that to live through the day, the month, the year. We do our best to honor and respect those who lost their lives in the Holocaust, in the tsunami, in the riots. We do it out of a sense of duty and an understanding of the historic importance, but not out of personal memory. For me, 9/11 is personal. That’s why it’s so hard.
I know you don’t really remember 9/11. And I’m sure what you remember is more tied to discussion and the commemorations at school than the day itself. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real to you—it’s just real in a different way. I hope you never, ever have to experience a tragedy at a personal level like that.
For all the people whose lives were cut off far, far too early, for the official first responders and the unofficial responders who lent a hand where they could, for those who lost friends, family, coworkers, loved ones. We remember.