I remember on September 11th, I drove my ex-husband (husband at the time) to work and dropped him off. I was listening to NPR on the way to work, and we heard a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Small planes crash all the time, and while I was concerned for the safety of those involved, I just assumed it was a small vessel with a single pilot who had gotten off course. There was just no way to contemplate the magnitude of it all. I got to work, which was a middle school where I substituted. At the time I was teaching the at-risk class. They were a handful of students who had lost the privilege to attend classes with the rest of the school. They were like ghosts, forced to arrive later and leave earlier. They had their own lunch time, and were not allowed to associate with any students outside their class. If they progressed, they could earn the right to enter the mainstream again.
Their regular teacher was in New York City on vacation.
I had been working with them for a couple of days already, and given how small the class was and how flexible the curriculum, we were able to turn on the news and watch the coverage. My mother had called my cell phone frantically, as she'd already been watching the first tower burning. She was crying so hard I couldn't understand what she was saying. I hadn't yet turned on the news myself, and the blurb on the radio was so minimal I just had no idea. I had no idea.
I watched with 5 fourteen year old kids as the second plane hit. It happened so fast, and the news reporter we were watching was so shocked at what he was seeing, we didn't fully grasp what had just happened.
It took a few days but the school did get a call from the teacher for whom I was subbing. She was fine and hadn't been in the area at the time, but since all flights were canceled she couldn't get out yet. She was going to rent a car and drive out of state to fly home. The kids were relieved she was okay, but I don't think any of them would ever be the same. I certainly wasn't.
I remember voting for George W. Bush that election, because the anger I felt had not faded yet and his speeches promising to take out all the bad guys made me feel good. I wanted revenge. I later started to feel sick from all of the songs made about 9/11. Of course people had a right to express their feelings but I started to feel like my emotions were being exploited by the media. It was disgusting to me.
I guess what I am trying to say is, it's all so complicated. Because loss is complicated. Murder is complicated. Forgiveness is complicated.
I have a friend at school who is an asylee from Afghanistan. She had to live in Pakistan for most of her adult life due to the war, and now things in Pakistan are getting worse. She is attending law school here with the hopes that she will be able to return home and help in the reforming of her country. She is brave and a wonderful person.
Like I said, it's complicated. The point is, my feelings when 9/11 happened were black and white. Then at some point everything went gray. I will never forget, but more importantly I will never forget the lessons I've learned. I hope none of us do.