Every year on this day, there are reminders. All over the place. On social media. On television. News publications. Chatter in workplace break rooms. Lessons in classrooms.
And many are painful reminders. The ones some people just want to forget.
While my eyes were still sticky and half closed from the night’s short sleep, I stumbled to the kitchen to make coffee. During the four minutes it took my Keurig to brew the much needed potion, I opened facebook. I scrolled. Maybe for twenty seconds. And I closed it. Got my coffee and proceeded to get ready for work.
And I thought. And thought some more. I’m thinking about this still as I write this. How this day impacted so many lives in so many ways. Living in a state far away from the events that occurred, most of us don’t have the same stories to tell. But to all of us who were adults alive on this day 18 years ago, we remember.
Since social media has become mainstream, our feeds are filled with posts commemorating this day. But why? Why do some people copy and paste a post about something? I never have. Not about this. And I know why I haven’t. I don’t follow the masses with things like this. I don’t feel worthy of making a post about it like I deserve any attention for what so many others earned. It isn’t a contest. To see who can look the most patriotic today. Because that’s how social media makes us look sometimes. Like fakes. Like we are trying to portray an image that we want others to see. I wasn’t in Manhattan or at the Pentagon or in any surrounding areas. I won’t pretend to know what it was like.
But I do remember where I was. I was a young mother. My firstborn child was two years old. He was in a daycare center a couple miles up the road from the credit union where I was working at the time. Many of my coworkers and friends were military spouses. It seemed to hit them harder. The shock. The realization that their husbands could have been there. Those of us who were mothers quickly felt the punch when we learned of the daycare center that was there. And I worried about my aunts and uncles who worked in Manhattan.
But still. I’m not going to make a post without thinking about why. One thing I am a constant about is asking, why.
I read some posts this morning made by strangers who are in a common parenting group on Facebook. Posts that touched me. Parents told stories about having babies in hospitals in areas that were directly impacted. Whose lives were spared because they were in labor that day instead of at the office. Parents who always receive attention when they tell someone their child’s birthday. Stories about the care they received from nurses and staff who didn’t know if their loved ones were okay. And how they waited for the people to come who needed care.
These posts made me realize that I shouldn’t judge those who just copy and paste things. Because I should know that not everyone has the gift of being able to put their thoughts and feelings into words. As a writer, I can respect that. As a writer, I felt compelled to try to do my part. To encourage you to think more slowly. To remember that everyone has their own reasons behind what they do. And to hope that they know those reasons.
Today, I could copy and share one of those posts. Like the ones with a background picture and some stats or statement that has almost become cliche’ typed across the top. Perhaps the picture is an American flag or some first responders or the towers. And if I did that without my own words attached, you wouldn’t know that I have a loved one who was deeply affected by that day.
You wouldn’t know that the memories haunt him year after year. Because he was there. In the middle of it. And the mother of his very young children, his wife at the time, didn’t know when or if they would see him again. You wouldn’t know that he wants so much to forget it. And to stop being reminded. Year after year.
Last fall, I got to chaperone a band trip with nearly 200 teenagers. One of the sights to visit on the itinerary was the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. I was apprehensive about seeing it because I knew it might be emotional. It was. We walked through each area in reverent silence. Some stared in awe. Some wandered around bored. And when I turned to the mother beside me and saw her silently weeping, the tears began to leak from my eyes too. There were so many vivid images accompanied by meticulously written descriptions. Mostly from New York, but then there was the section I was looking for. Images from the Pentagon. Images that my loved one saw up close.
One reason I’ve never posted anything before is because he wants to forget. But we can’t forget. It’s a wound with a scar. It’s like when an ankle is shattered into a million pieces and even after it’s put back together, it’s not the same. You learn to live with the chronic pain everyday. And it doesn’t let you forget. And maybe we shouldn’t.
I’ve grown since that day 18 years ago. I now can understand why my dad, a military veteran, was so frustrated with me during my youth when I did not care for studying history. When I was more concerned with the current fashion trends than worldly news matters.
Seeing the teenagers walk through that museum brought me to the realization that these kids had not been born yet on this day. They were looking at things they had only heard about from the various media sources. And some talks at school. Perhaps discussions in history class. It may as well have been about Pearl Harbor or the Civil War to them.
And this is why we must remember. For future generations to know what happened before them. To know the things that have paved the roads they travel today. To know that they aren’t immune from anything. For us all to value the life that we have. To know that it can be taken from us at any time.
So when you see a post from someone you think might just be posting because it’s popular to copy and share, slow down. Remember that we don’t always know the reasons behind things. It’s not our job to find out.
We don’t always know why we are in some places at certain times. Or why our lives might have been spared when they could have been lost. But for my dear sweet love, I can’t make him forget. But what I can do is remind him that he is so worthy and so loved. And sometimes I think that maybe his life was spared to save mine.