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Reflecting: September 11th

September 11, 2013

Every year when September 11th comes around I always am struck by how quickly time has gone by in the last 12 years, how much has happened at the same time, and how it still just seems like it wasn’t all that long ago. I often struggle on this day and every year I have a mix of emotions. First, I always want the day to be happy because it is my Dad’s birthday. I want to think about that first. Then I move onto remembering, and sometimes there are moments where that is still gut-wrenching and I get tears in my eyes.

Leave the world better than when you found it

Leave the world better than when you found it

It was a beautiful September day today. I tossed on light jacket on my way out of the house because there was a coolness in the air. It burned off quickly as the morning passed, but it was reminder that fall was near.  Leaves have started to fall off the trees, even down here in the South. The sky was a beautiful blue, with the sun shining and I spent most of the day outside talking with students and hosting an event (I remembered sunscreen this time). It was a perfect start to the day, the same way it was 12 years ago.

I teach on Monday and Wednesday, and as I was walking to class this afternoon, it dawned on me that the freshmen milling around me on the way to class were in first grade when this happened. They were about six. That not only makes me feel old, but it also makes me think about how they remember the day. They were children, I hope that they were sheltered from some of what we saw, and that their parents came up with the best way to explain what was going on for them. I realize they’ve seen it on TV as it has been remembered over the years. They’ve seen the pictures. They’ve studied it as a part of their history and civic classes. They’ve paused to remember and even to do service to honor of those who lost their lives. But I wonder if they will every truly understand the emotion of that day… the utter terror, the confusion, the shock and the overwhelming sadness that swamped everyone I knew. How in an instant the entire world that we lived in changed. I get that they live in that changed world, they deal with the after effects… but to understand that day, I wonder. In a few years the entering freshmen class will be the children of 9/11… the ones that were born in that year. And after that, will come the students who hadn’t even been born yet. That is going to be odd. And I started to wonder, how to we begin to honor a day so big, when the population we work with may not care as much as some of us who are older. That will be interesting to tackle.

I’m over-analyzing, I know. I work at my alma mater, and I’m around places every day that hold memories for me as a student, but I rarely spend my days thinking about that. Working there as an adult, as a professional, is a vastly different experience than being there as a student (as it should be). September 11th though, is different. It is the consistent one day of the year where I actively think about my own college experience. I remember so much of that day, and the days that followed. And I can’t help but look around me on days like this, and look at these amazing students that I work with and teach, and realize how vastly different our experiences are, how different the worlds we’ve grown up in have been.

As I was outside at that event today, there were several tables set up where anyone could write a thank you to our local veterans and first responders, to thank them for their service. There were lots of students wearing America shirts, or patriotic colors, and plenty of them not only stopped to write a note, but went out of their way to do so. There was one young man who stood in the middle of the walk way and loudly sang Toby Keith’s “The Angry American.” That was different. They may not all remember it in great detail, but they care.

I think this whole mess with Syria has also made me pause and think more than normal. I don’t know what my opinion is about Syria, other than the fact that it is a mess. What gets me more today, is that twelve years later I can look back and see the clear path of where we went as a nation after that day. It wasn’t just a day were we saw such loss, but it was a day that set our nation on a path that has impacted all of us. Two wars. Two long and hard wars, fought far from home by brave men and women. I know many people who served in those wars, many who came home and some that didn’t. And I guess I just want that to all be over, and that makes Syria confusing and scary for me. Okay… that was a tangent, sorry. Focusing.

So, we celebrate another anniversary today. Another year where we remember all of the people who were lost too early and the families who will always grieve for them. We remember the start to these two long wars where we’ve lost so many wonderful people. And while I am reflecting on this day and the emotion that surrounds it, I am also thinking positively. I wrote cards today to veterans to say thank-you for your service. I bought cookies for the people behind me in line at the bakery. I tried (I didn’t totally succeed) to be nice during the morning rush hour and not honk my horn at people. I reminded the people I love the most that I love them and that they matter to me. I tried to be kind, to do good, to show love. I try to do this every day, but I tried extra hard today. Because for me, that is what I would like to see more of… if we each tried a little harder to be good, to be kind… and we all made a collective impact… well, that would be a great legacy.

Desmond Tutu "Do your little bit of good"

Desmond Tutu “Do your little bit of good”

That’s my ramble for this 12th anniversary. Less in shock and less confused than I was 12 years ago, but still left with a lasting impact. Do you stop to remember this day? How so?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Katie Brumley permalink
    September 16, 2013 9:24 pm

    Kim, this is one of my favorite blog posts of yours. So well written! I think the same way you do about that day. And you’re right, we’re one of the few generations that will always remember that day like it was yesterday.

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