Saturday, September 10, 2011


Today is a cool date. 9 - 10 - 11. I'll bet the number of weddings and scheduled C-sections is higher today than what you'd see on an average Saturday in September. Think how much easier it will be for all those husbands to remember their anniversaries!

On the other hand, that could be a little awkward because today is, also, of course, the day before.

The thing is, ten years ago today we didn't know that. It was the day before all the bad news. So we went about our business and did our normal things because there isn't that much that's special about September 10, as a date, except for maybe once every century or so. If only all those people in the towers could have known that it was the day before, they wouldn't have gone to work the next day. The airline passengers wouldn't have climbed aboard those planes. They all would have stayed home, and they'd be alive.

But life is like that. Huge things happen to us out of the blue. Things we didn't know were coming, things we never would have predicted the day before. Terrorist attacks, tsunamis, car wrecks, betrayals. You just never know.

Today I got to thinking about my 16, 17, 18-year-old students, and what to do with them to commemorate September 11. For the first few years after 9-11, I gave my students time to write about their memories, to reflect on whatever meaning those memories held, during class time on September 11. But the last couple of years, the kids have just looked at me. They're a little jaded. They've had this writing assignment every year, for gosh sakes, and they were just little kids when it happened. They really don't remember or know that anything different is about the world today than it was the day before. Whatever fears or griefs they may have carried within them from that ugly act of terrorism, they've kind of said it all.

In another three years or so, around 2014, my juniors and seniors won't have any memories of September 11, 2001. Of course they will of heard about it, and of course it's important to teach and remember, but it won't be a personal thing. Even now, the kids in my classroom were just in kindergarten or first grade, or maybe second grade.

There is something in all this that carries such poignancy. So many thousands of lives were directly affected by the terrorist attacks. Millions more of us have had our lives profoundly change since then. And yet there are millions of young people--billions of them if you take in the global populations (and it won't be long, believe me, before they are the movers and shakers in the world, and I'm slowing down somewhere in retirement)--for whom that day, that experience, is nothing but a sad story they've heard too many times.

I know we will remember the attacks tomorrow, and of course we should. But I am certain that celebrations around joyful family events are also going on, and I'm glad we've reached the point where we can schedule a wedding the day before 9-11 and it's not weird.

For me, I think the takeaway lesson of this curious juxtaposition of dates is simply to live each day the best I can. Because every day, in someone's life, turns out to be "the day before" they weren't expecting. I'm not trying to be gruesome here, or melodramatic. It's not the kind of thing I like to think about, necessarily, but it's inescapable and true. My heart goes out to all the fine people who still grieve losses from September 11, 2001. And my hat is off to all the celebrations linked to this very cool date, September 10, 2011.


Sarah said...

Good post. My sister's birthday is on the 12th of this month and I remember her saying "great now no one will remember my birthday, just this sad day."
It's weird that my children won't have the memories of 9/11. I find it bizarre that your almost-adult students have only their parents stories. 9/11 has been so life altering to EVERYONE i know. Strange.
...but i guess that's how people felt about pearl harbor and such.

Mike Koponick said...

I went to a wedding yesterday for some friends. It was a very nice wedding, about 250 people attended.
While the bride & groom were dancing on the dance floor, I was thinking that both of them were in their early 20's when the world changed for all of us. What about our children and grandchildren. I think it will end up being similar to WWII, Korea, Vietnam like it was for us. It will only be remembered by people like Maddy as a memorial day, and something big happened on 9/11/01. They won't be sure why, but they will know it happened.

Polly @ Pieces by Polly said...

Very true, Mom. I suppose in a few years you'll be giving them a writing assignment to talk to their parents or grandparents about their memories from Sept. 11. I remember having assignments like that for important dates in history that were before my time. I also vaguely remember when the Berlin wall came down and being told that there was no way I could understand the significance of whole life that I've been aware of world geography has been lived with a free and united Germany...quite different from the Nazi Germany that brought about WWII and the Cold War Germany.

Dorothy said...

Well said, Kathy! Thank you.

Annemarie said...

Lovely words, Kathy. One thing I've been thinking about TODAY (9/11): The United States doesn't have the market share on a date where terror or violence took the lives of so many of our people. Many other countries share this kind of situation--where bombs have dropped on their city and killed half the population. We are right to mourn, but we shouldn't forget that we enact this same kind of violence on other people in the world too. That's a painful irony to me . . . something I hope one day we can fully understand.

Blessings, friend.

Katie Lewis said...

Well said, Mom.