Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years later

I've written about 9/11 before.  Each year as the anniversary of the tragic events approaches, so does the anniversary of my wedding.  I've written about being deeply distraught as I read the obituaries in the New York Times for each of the people confirmed dead in the twin towers and at the same time being unable to stop reading as though by acknowledging the uniqueness of each individual I would somehow make their death less meaningless.  I've written about the attacks looking back on that terrible day and the uncertain and grief-filled weeks that followed, but as I think about it today, what strikes me is how much our daily lives have changed in the past ten years.

I grew up during the cold war era, as many of us did.  I remember living under the looming threat of a nuclear war.  I remember fearing the Soviet Union and the weapons that could bring life as we know it to a halt.  Movies like Red Dawn, terrible as they were, were terrifying because they felt possible to kids my age.  I remember the day when a friend's mother fell asleep while watching TV and later woke with news reports of a nuclear attack playing on the screen.  She was panic stricken, trying to understand just where this had happened and desperate to get her child home quickly and safely from school so they would at least be together as the world came down around them.  It wasn't until she switched channels a few minutes later to see if there was local news reports about what the schools were doing to get kids home that she realized the "news" she had been watching were part of an HBO movie. But it felt real because we believed it was possible. I remember being a teenage activist, heading up our school's own "Beyond War" club in hopes of avoiding the end of the world in a mushroom cloud.  And I remember doing this with an intensity and passion that feels a little silly to me as I type this now.

But the world changed and the Soviet Union dissolved and what once seemed so imminent and oppressive, became part of history instead of a part of our daily lives.  And while there were acts of terrorism and wars in the years that came after, the idea of a single evil nation, always just a step away from destroying us just faded away.

And then there was 9/11.  In the years since, I believe we have all been waiting for the next shoe to drop.  The attacks were on US soil and caused previously unimaginable destruction and loss of life.  We've been fighting a war on terrorism that has continues to increase that body count.  The images from the ever-present news coverage have become part of our national anxiety.  And the feeling that we are no longer safe, even at home, has returned.

My children were both born after 9/11.  They have never known a time when we did not have a color-coded national threat level.  They have never flown without thorough airport screenings.  Heck, they've never flow with a pair of nail clippers in our bag.  They have grown up in the era of the Patriot Act, where civil liberties have been compromised in favor of the illusion of security.  They have grown up with the annual news barrage of 9/11 coverage that brings those terrifying images to into our homes and minds again and again.  They have grown up in USA that knows attacks can take place in our most vibrant and populated cities, and fears that this could happen again any day.

Today as I left the house with the boys to attend a birthday party on a sunny Seattle afternoon, I heard "Taps" playing in the background from where Mr. Dog was watching football.  My eyes started to fill with tears as once again I remember snippets of the obituaries in the NY Times.  A father, a cook, a mother, a son, a many stories of loss, so much grief.  I stopped what I was doing, held temporarily still in that memory.  Little Dog grabbed my hand and said, "What, mom?"
"Just listening to that music.  It's very sad.  Depressing," I answered and began ushering the boys out the door.  I think they're still a bit too young to talk about the actual events 9/11 in any meaningful way.  I don't know how I'd even present it to them.  All I know is we are living an era of post-9/11 grief, fear and loss that has changed everything.

1 comment:

geekymummy said...

Great post. I have not talke he kids about it either though they were asking questions about the images in the paper today.

And happy anniversary. Ten years! Good job you were a child bride!

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