I haven’t much to say about 9/11, because like important events in my life that brought me great sadness, the difficulty with which I write about these topics is enormous. I cannot let the day pass without a few words, though, about the events of September 11, 2001.
That morning, at about 5:50 AM, I awoke with a start, as though I’d heard an alarm. I never awoke that early because I work in the theater, and I routinely sleep in after working late the night before. That morning, however, I grabbed my remote and turned on the television with a focus rarely felt that early in the day. I turned on the news to see flames roiling from the side of World Trade Center Tower 1. Moments later, I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center Tower 2. I sat in bed, riveted to the images on my television as I watched in horror as the two towers tumbled to the ground, killing 3,000 people. I saw the attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. as my confusion and grief grew even more. I called my future husband at his house and he was utterly distracted by watching these same events, so I hung up and watched alone until I had to get up to go into my classroom that Tuesday morning.
When I addressed the issue with the middle school and high school students in my vocal music classes, I don’t even know what I told them. I was in shock. I had just watched thousands of people die. I tried to keep these young people calm. We didn’t sing much that day. I know I couldn’t.
A few days later, the Sacramento International Airport contacted our school, a performing and fine arts academy, to ask if we would sing at the memorial. We, of course, agreed. My advanced singing group, Gateway Singers, assembled with somber countenance in the parking lot in front of the terminal. I cannot recall the songs we chose. The truth is, it is all a blur. It is a blur because I could not reason through these events. They made no sense to me and I was left with an emptiness in my heart for people whom I didn’t know,except for the fact that they were Americans. Soon, however, I would hear from people who knew individuals who died in the attack.
We sang together, we wept together, and we held each other as we realized how many families were affected. Those of us who performed at that memorial wore the 9/11 pins that we received from the airport. My heart was full for the small and adult children that were lost on that tragic day. As I put my arms around our weeping students, I couldn’t help but realize that parents, spouses, and children from all over the world, who had prayed in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, were gone from our planet.
I will never truly understand why the people who perpetrated this monstrous series of attacks did what they did. How they got to that point in their lives that they believed this was appropriate action to take will allude me the rest of my life. On a larger scale, I know that I do not understand violent war at all. I suppose I was born without that part of my functional mindset. I do not see a reason to destroy lives out of anger, fear, or retribution.
So, today, as we commemorate the events of 9/11, I will sit quietly, contemplating our loss, remembering the day in all its fuzziness, the quality that my brain has probably ascribed to the events to make them tolerable to carry for the rest of my life. I will gaze upon the pin I received for leading our young people ten years ago in lamentation, knowing nothing will make our ache better. Like all loss, we will bear these events as scars on our hearts, hoping we will never see the like of them again.
The one aspect that gives me hope in all of this is the fact that heroism appeared time and again during this process. People on the ground in New York City, the passengers on Flight 93 that sacrificed their lives to thwart the attack on Washington, D.C., and that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and many others who helped the the rescue efforts from around the country, showed their mettle that day. I hang onto that as my memory so that I can move forward. I never forget, and will likely always remember the grievous events of 9/11, but I choose hope for tomorrow to honor those who can no longer hope.