By now, Facebook is flooded with photographs and recollections. Some heartfelt; others, forced. Twitter is aflutter with tweets and twits. And Google + is, well, I don’t know because I never use it.
And plenty of people are critiquing each other’s sentiments, determining who really deserves to feel the crushing weight of the day’s albatross.
Rationales aside, each of us appropriates this disaster. We do so to determine how far we can remove the deeply-set emotional knife from our chest—until a future time when this day passes with only the slightest sense of a phantom pinprick.
It just takes a flip through old journals to recognize my complicity in this unsettling enterprise—the pages devoted to this day fattened with ribbons and miniature flags, and riddled with clichéd lines like these.
But what can never be captured appropriately are the ways that this day jarred our collective consciousness. Because each American’s life was uprooted from seemingly stable, solid ground. Whether blocks, states, or continents away, we each felt the impacts. And something broke inside us all.
I cannot fathom what those who lost someone experienced. And I cannot know how it felt to be there.
All I can imagine is being a high-schooler in Alabama. Being told by a friend, “The World Trade Center and Pentagon just got attacked. And something happened in Pennsylvania.” Hearing the job fair’s buzzing conversations silenced by the principal’s intercomed order back to class. Rushing to AP Government and Economics and watching the planes crash into the towers, and the towers collapsing.
Answering parents’ panicked calls to the office alongside the overwhelmed secretaries. Retrieving friends from classes to return home. Hearing my Pre-calculus teacher’s sobs in the hallway after learning that her daughter’s plane had been rerouted to Canada—that she was safe. Experiencing the after-school stillness.
Returning patrons’ strained expressions, and hearing the occasional proclamation of the apocalypse while asking, “Paper or plastic?” Sitting and watching the news coverage in silence. Reading the headlines.
Feeling the images burn into memory.
Knowing I’ll never forget.