Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Somber Experience

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of chaperoning my son's field trip (which in and of itself is a long story, but I'll save that for another time, as it is not the point of this post). We had a group of about 48 11 and 12 year-olds (sixth graders), and part of the trip was a tour of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

One thing that stuck not only me, but the teachers and other chaperones as well is that none of the children were alive when 9/11 happened.

They've always existed in a post-9/11 world.

They don't know know what the NYC skyline looked like with the Twin Towers, and how once they were gone, it created a huge hole.

They don't know what it is like to say good-bye to someone at the airport gate, or greet them there the moment they deplane.

They don't remember the days when bags weren't searched and x-ray scanners weren't the norm. When you didn't have to remove your coat and belt and shoes just to enter a museum.

They've always known the term Al Qaeda. They've always known of Osama Bin Laden and Jihad.

They don't have the memories of that day, knowing exactly where they were and what they were doing. Watching the horrible events unfold, live on CNN.

They don't understand the gravity of the statement, "He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald."

They don't know how eerie it is to see a sky with no air traffic.

They don't know how frightening it is to see a low flying plane.

My personal recollections are in this post, but we all have those stories. The teacher who had a view of the Pentagon from his classroom. The teacher with a classroom full of kids who was summoned to the office because her principal knew her sister lived in the city. The mother who's youngest sister was late for work at her job in the South Tower, arriving just after the first plane crash (she grabbed a friend and high tailed it across the Brooklyn Bridge).

I had four boys with me yesterday. We didn't have time to read every exhibit, so I gave them the quick synopsis. I have to say, I'm proud at the respect and somberness they showed. I still don't know if they got the gravity of the situation. The steel beams, twisted and mangled, crumpled like paper. Seeing the steel arch and how massive it is, and how small it was compared to the rest of the building. The fire truck (Engine 3) with the front end melted off. All 11 members of the Company perished that day. How the phone lines to pretty much all of New York were jammed, so that loved ones could not be contacted. The missing flyers that grew in the days after. The horror of knowing all the emergency personnel mobilizing at the local hospitals would have no survivors to treat. Of knowing that there would be a high casualty count from the plane crashes themselves, but that no one expected the towers to fall.

Of watching people jump out the window.

I don't know if I said the right things yesterday. It's hard to believe it's been almost 15 years. It feels like yesterday.

I feel like I need to take my youngest to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, when she's a little older. And then I will have no need to go back. I will carry in my mind, and in my heart, the terrible losses of that day until the day I die.

And I will pray that my children will have no such defining event in their lives.


  1. What a moving post. It is so true. But 15 years? It still feels like yesterday or a week ago, not 15 years. My kids were all alive then but my Grandson was not, nor my great nieces and nephews. They have no clue how America was before we all lost our innocence. Thank you for this post!

  2. This is such a touching post. I worked 3rd shift (3:30 pm - 2:00 am) for a government contracted business so when it all happened I was asleep. The church secretary called me and asked if I'f I'd seen on the news what was going on. I immediately turned on my tv and sat watching in shock. I was in shock for a few days. And sometimes now when I think about it I still can't believe it. You're right, it doesn't seem like it's been 15 years.

  3. A very moving post ! I can so relate to everything you pointed out pre-9/11. I just said to my 23 year old son the other day that I recall when there was constant scrolling ticker at the bottom of the news. He recalls 9/11 as I had the CBS Morning show on and he was eating a bowl of cereal at the kitchen table with his little sister (5 years old at the time). I was loading the dishwasher when they showed the second plane live. I didn't really know that the first plane was a commercial airliner as I had still thought it was a small plane, as reported on the radio before I finished getting ready for work, and I had turned off the radio and took the kids downstairs to get breakfast. My routine was to turn on the morning news while we ate and got things ready for the kids to go to school. The volume wasn't up to loud but I'll never forget my so say "Mom, what movie are you watching?" I looked up and saw the plane strike tower 2 and I ran to turn off the TV. Having to tell my son that it wasn't a movie and getting the kids to school I didn't know what was going on. After getting them to school and getting back into my car the radio reported the Pentagon had been attacked. I called hubby' at work crying my eyes out ttelling him what happened. I asked him if this was the beginning of WWWIII. Growing up as a military brat and marrying a man who fought in Operation Desert Storm I have a fierce love of my country as we all do.

    I will never forget the images shown on TV & the front of Times magazine. I cried and prayed for days so heartbroken for everyone. It's not something I will never ever forget. Like all of us old enough to have an understanding of the events that took place on 9/11 we can eerily recall every second of the day. We didn't let our kids watch the ongoing 24 hour news coverage. My son was so upset by what he saw on TV that day we decided to closely monitor his exposure. We explained what we thought an 7 1/2 year old could understand. My daughter was too young to grasp anything and paid no attention to the TV that day. I remember thinking there's no way I wanted to bring another child into the world following 9/11. We were on edge waiting to see of something else would happen. We live close to NORAD and I was so afraid someone would try to attack the base.

    I did wise up and gave birth to my now 13 year old daughter in 11/02. It still tripped my mind to see 9/11 in my children's Social Studies textbooks. But 15 years? It doesn't seem possible perhaps since we can vividly remember everything about the day.

    We did visit NYC in 2003 along with our son and went down to where the 9/11 Memorial stands. It really felt surreal seeing the area and it truly felt as we were standing on sacred ground. I know we were. My hubby grew up in Long Island and his father is a retired NYC Police Officer. Hubby kept looking around telling me his thoughts on not seeing the 2 towers standing there. I sadly never had the honor of visiting the towers so his perspective was very different.

    I want to visit the Memorial with my 13 year old & Hubby. I too feel once would be enough. I love the city and definitely will always return to visit ~ but like all of us old enough to recall 9/11 my heart still hurts and I still cry when I hear something relating to that day.