“Do you live in fear? Do you send your children to school? Do you keep them home? You are stupid if you keep them home. If you keep them home, THEY win. If you send them and they die, at least they lived without fear. We can’t let THEM terrorize us. “
But I think that ship sailed on September 11th. We have been irrevocably damaged. Maybe we are not broken, but we are not the same. I stayed quiet because I reflect every year on these very thoughts but I do keep my girls home, but not for the reason you might think. This is my secret. I don’t usually talk about it and when I call the school, I make up some excuse of coughing and slight fevers but this year, I just told them that my girls weren’t coming in because September 11th is a day in our household of remembrance and mourning. It’s the truth. Why should I be embarrassed about it?
Today is September 11th and I find myself at the same spot I have every year since that day 13 years ago. I don’t live my life in fear but I don’t send my girls to school on September 11th either. I never have and I probably never will. No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist and I am not crazy. Keeping them home was not born out of some irrational fear that something terrible was going to happen on September 11th. It has come from a place of reverence.
What I am is a woman who was 28 years old on September 11th, 2001. I was just starting my life as a wife, living in Greensboro, North Carolina. My husband was in Pennsylvania traveling for work and I was walking into my office at the small publishing house where I edited. I walked into work just before 9 a.m. in time to see the first plane hit the tower. I was shocked; all the air was sucked out of me. We sat in silence and then my first reaction was to call my husband. I desperately needed to hear his voice. I couldn’t reach him. The phones were down. I never felt so alone in my entire life. The not knowing if he was safe, a sentiment that blanked the entire country, held me in its grip and my heart was heavy, so heavy I felt as if I was choking on the very air I was trying to breathe. A nation full of people sharing a single event and I felt completely alone in my grief, my pain and my fear. I know that I wasn’t but pain is personal. Like everyone else in the United States, I was changed that day forever. I am not the same person I was before that day. I know there have been mass losses before in history and have been more since, but none that have affected me so personally, none that I have been a first person witness.
Every year, I keep my children home from school as my way of stopping the world and remembering. It’s my moment of silence. It lasts 24 hours. Believe me, I never forget. I carry it with me every single day, as I do all the big moments of my life; the hard losses. But on September 11th, I stop in reverence and give myself over in silence and stillness. It is my very small way of paying homage to those men and women who died on that day. It is my way of showing respect to those people who loved them and were left behind to feel the pain for a lifetime. It is a small gesture and in the grand scheme of life insignificant but it is something I need to do. Last year, I explained what today was about to my girls. They know. They pray today for those children who lost their mothers and fathers on that day. They give thanks for those who survived. This is why my girls are home with me today.
I don’t know where the world is headed but I know there is a lot of terrible things going on right now. I can’t turn on the television without seeing someone being shot dead, hacked with a machete or innocents being beheaded. It’s overwhelming the amount of bad things happening right now and worse, what the Internet has made possible to see. Today, we remember all those who were lost to violence and terrorism, pray for those who have to survive the loss, pray for those who are still being victimized by those with hatred in their hearts and do our part to be channels of peace in this world we live in.
Be good to one another every day. Be kind and be reverent today. Pause and be thankful.