Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Generational differences on remembering 9/11

I realized last night speaking with a couple college students I work with at Loyola Marymount University that young men and women in college today were young elementary school students when 9/11 happened 11 years ago. In speaking to these students, I was momentarily taken aback by how it was one of the few times this particular conversation was driven less by raw emotion and reflection on a personal level of what that day meant and more almost like a history lesson. It was the first time I felt compelled to tell my own 9/11 story not for my own comfort, but to hopefully educate someone else. 

I was a senior in high school, and like many kids with parents were going through a divorce, my relationship with my parents wasn't great. I was difficult to communicate with, and so had spoken little with my dad but knew he was scheduled to be on a plane that day. Before those planes hit the towers, my biggest concern was a test I failed to properly study for and the status of Ed McCaffrey, a Broncos wide receiver who broke his leg on Monday Night Football the night before. That morning, the hours dragged on, leaving me wondering if my dad was alright. The petty reasons we shut off communication with people weighed heavily on my mind, as for the first time I contemplated a world where not talking to him was not a choice, but a brutal reality forced upon me. That feeling of relief when he called is vivid in my memory to this day. 

Watching the towers fall, surrounded by classmates who first screamed and then sobbed as we watched events unfold, those are the types of sounds you can almost hear again so clearly when you just recall the memory. To this day, when I go to Mass, I kneel, even when most in my local church no longer do. On 9/11, my school came together to do the only thing that made sense: pray. Being in a gym, we never knelt during Mass but this day was different. One student dropped to his knees, and then another, and in under a minute, the entire gym was on their knees. That moment was the strongest I felt that entire week. 

Each time I am in a Church I kneel and it brings me back to 9/11/01. I am reminded to pray for anyone who saw life close it's final chapter too soon, and those who silently shoulder the burden of that loss. But it's also a hallelujah song of sorts, a Thanksgiving  for the incredible comfort I felt in that moment, knowing there was a community around me ready to face what uncertainty lay ahead. 

I found this reflection from Vice-President Joe Biden and was profoundly moved by it. Vice-President Biden  lost his wife and daughter in a horrible car accident when he was only 30 years old. When he speaks to victims there is this clear and undeniable connection that I can only imagine comes from knowing real tragedy too early in life. 

I didn't lose anyone that day but like millions of people old enough to recall those strong emotions, the national loss is still a very real part of my personal identity. I think older generations have an important role in telling the stories that lurk behind the events of history. The things I remember most about some of the biggest historical events aren't what I learned from my history book, they are what was shared with me by members of generations who remember those moments as anything but a page in a history book.

1 comment:

Jim Furlong said...

I love a good seanchai (Irish storyteller). And hopefully our memories will be filled with more triumphs than tragedies to remember. For instance I still remember listening to John Kennedy's first inagural address as an 8th grader at St. Adrian School. And I remember what I was doing when the "Eagle has landed" on the moon was spoken. And the moonwalk (no Michael Jackson you didn't invent it) was taken shortly thereafter. But the day I remember most was July 16, 1983. I remember it from when I was roused from my sleep at about 3am until 9:53 am when you were born. I remember waking up June Aguilar to watch your sister. I remember busting the stoplight at Austin Bluffs Parkway going to the hospital. I remember pushing my finger into your hand and your instinctively grabbing that finger less than 10 minutes old. I also remember some thing about your first few minutes not worthy of mentioning on this blog. LY Dad