Remember Something: The Night Before

I had barely been in sixth grade for a week, and I was already having an academic meltdown.  I couldn’t figure out the answer to my damn social studies assignment.  It should have been easy (and in retrospect, it probably was) because the questions came from the textbook.  Theoretically, all I had to do was was find the answer in the corresponding textbook chapter and copy it down.  That’s what I had done countless times before.  But this time, I couldn’t find the answer, and I threw a fit.

My Mom was semi-used to these perfectionist breakdowns and tried to calm me as I huffed and whined around the bedroom.  “How do you know that’s right?  It doesn’t say that in the textbook,” I fretted when she attempted to help me with an answer.  She explained her thought process, but I was having none of it because, as far as I was concerned, the textbook was law.   We went in circles like this for about a half an hour before I begrudgingly relented and wrote down the ‘wrong’ answer.  I was still skeptical, but I needed to go to bed.

That was how my day ended on September 10, 2001.

The next day, it all changed.  And even though I was only twelve-years-old, I realized that everything that had happened the night before was petty, inconsequential, and meaningless.  None of it mattered because there were people being burned alive in airplanes and throwing themselves out of windows.  They were dead, but I was not.  There were thousands of people who had talked to their loved ones that morning.  They couldn’t talk to their loved ones now, yet I could still talk to my family that night.   Just being alive and having my family – that’s what mattered.  And for those directly impacted by the events in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C., these things would be especially important for years to come.

But what about the rest of us?  What about those of us who only experienced the horrors of that Tuesday morning through the shaken anchors on network newscasts?  What about those of us who didn’t have a friend or family member head off to the unforgiving lands of Afghanistan or Iraq in the months and years to come?  Would we remain changed, just thankful for the grace of one more breath and one more hug?  Or would we return to the petty, the inconsequential, and the meaningless?

I think most of us would like to say that we were forever changed by 9/11.  I mean, according to the media, the events of that day were the defining moments of our generation.  We, the now mostly twentysomethings, are the 9/11 generation.  But beyond the societal and political consequences, such as war and longer airport security lines, have we really changed?

Do we cherish more time with our families, or do we spend more time glued to the Instagram feeds on our iphones?  (It’s a little after 2 p.m., and I’ve looked at my feed at least five or six times already today).  Do we know more about the current conflict in Syria and the presidential address tonight, or do we know more about Kim Kardashian’s latest post-baby outfit?  (Last I head, she was spotted wearing a form-fitting, checkered ensemble).  Do we take more time to listen to our friends, or do we spend inordinate amounts of time arguing with some troll on Twitter?

I don’t know about you, but I think the answers are pretty obvious.  It’s the night before all over again.

– l  xo


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