11 Years and 7 Time Zones

On September 11, 2001, I remember sitting in the weirdly-shaped desks at my brand-new middle school. I remember being in Geography class, and having a teacher whose name I have long forgotten lean in to the classroom and say, “Hey, turn on the TV.” I remember not knowing what the World Trade Center was.

I remember watching a lot of TV in school that day. I remember hearing that Disney World was closed, the President was underground, and images of white dust, so much white dust. I remember going home, and thinking that my parents might not have known what had happened. “Did you guys hear about the thing in New York?” (They had.)

I remember convincing my parents two years later to take us to New York. I remember being in awe of Manhattan, and seeing the gaping hole in the ground where the towers had stood. I remember describing Ground Zero to my German class on September 11, 2003, because I was the only one in the class who had seen it in person.

I remember September 11, 2006, senior year of high school. My friends and I were getting ready to leave Sparta, and the five-year anniversary was another way by which we measured how our own lives had changed. I remember talking–reminiscing is a terribly inappropriate term–with my friends about that morning in seventh grade, and I remember being scared of not knowing what was next.

I remember waking up at Luther on September 11, 2007 and seeing that the library lawn had been lined with American flags. I remember that even then, my friends and my recollections of 2001 were much the same: we’d all watched New York and Washington  and Pennsylvania on our TV screens. Many of the stories told that day were concluded with predictions, hopes, and rhetoric surrounding the 2008 election.

On September 11, 2009, I remember walking by huge marble buildings adorned with American flags on my way to work in DC. I remember asking my boss about 2001, and hearing her stories about smoke rising from the Pentagon over the Potomac, about curators staying with their collections, about the conflicting desire in the museum community to both respect and commemorate what developed in the immediate aftermath of that Tuesday.

I remember waking up on September 11, 2012, eleven years and seven times zones away from seventh grade in a foreign country that I have studied, visited, left, and to which I have now returned. I remember walking to class in a caffeine-deprived haze, and stumbling through my grammar work with my classmates. I remember our break this morning, where the first mention of 9/11 was made.

Today, for the first time in eleven years, my September 11th did not begin with hearing others or sharing my own stories of 2001. Like Emily, I hadn’t actually planned on blogging about today. However, I find myself wondering the same thing: is it possible–or even terrifyingly easy–to forget what should never be forgotten?

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