Sunday marks a special day in the history of world events, but mostly just in the history of America. A decade ago, a terrorist attack crushed two of the most recognizable buildings in the world – the Twin Towers – and decimated a sector of a major American government building – the Pentagon. Millions of people were either killed or hurt by these attacks. The face of the American peoples was scarred forever.
Except that it kind of wasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong – 9/11/01 was a terrible event. I feel for the families of those lost. I know that beyond just those injured in the initial attack, several thousand Muslim people were discriminated, attacked, and generally feared and hated even though they all lived, worked, and supported America and had nothing at all to do with the attacks. I know that it brought a nation together in a time of fear and pride and unity. I know that the world grieved and that for a few brief moments, we were all together and watching these events unfold. And I know that for years to come, organizations around the nation will have moments of silence to remember the day.
But what about the rest of us? Those of us who were ten years old, sitting in a classroom with no tv, who had no idea that anything was happening until the bell didn’t ring to switch classes? What about those of us sitting on a beach or sleeping in or just generally living life with no family or friends anywhere near New York, those of us who have never been near New York? What about those of us who CAN’T tell you where and what we were doing ten years ago on one of the most ‘memorable’ days of contemporary US history when we lived in the country?
Every year, September comes around and I just follow the crowd. I hold my tongue for the moment of silence. I’m kind and understanding to those around me who experienced it. But for me, those images aren’t burned into my mind. I don’t think on it and remember it clearly. I don’t even think on it with fear. I was ten years old, oblivious and happy in primary school, and if anyone was reacting dramatically at the time, well I just don’t remember it happening.
Every year, people cry and they talk to each other about the events… but I can’t do that. I can’t share in the experience, and that is a hard thing to think about. Everyone expects me to feel bad about the people who died, but every year I’m just sad that I can’t remember anything special happening to me that day. I can sympathize with those effected, but I was not one of the millions, billions, of Americans moved to fear and anger that day. And every year I keep thinking of just one question.
What does this say about me?
This year, I think I have an answer. What does it say about me? It says I was an unaffected bystander, more specifically a child. It says that just because I’m not moved by strong emotions every 9/11 doesn’t mean I’m not heartless or uncaring. It just means I don’t remember the date the same way. So this blog is for all the unaffected of September 11th. May you feel good about yourself even as you share in the grief of those around you.