I hope you haven’t forgotten

Published 9:24 am Thursday, September 10, 2009

Each year after 9/11 I have made it a point to watch the remembrance ceremonies that take place in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pa.

In the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on our soil, the television is often littered with documentaries, commentaries and interviews about that day.

I watch just to remind myself how much this country lost in one day.

It’s often too easy to forget about tragedy and go on with our lives. When 9/11 happened we all said it, “I will never forget. We will never forget.”

The phrase was brandished across t-shirts, bumper stickers and displayed in store windows days after the attack.

But it’s been eight years and many of us have forgotten.

I’ve always had this fear that 9/11 would just become another page in the history books students scoot over—just like Pearl Harbor.

The mess in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers dying everyday, global warming threats, the energy crisis, and debate over healthcare are just some of the issues that flood our senses on a day to day basis.

I remember September 11, 2001 very clearly. My mom woke me that morning telling me there had been a terrorist attack in New York. She had been informed by a relative on the phone. Like millions of other people, I sought out the television.

There had been a terrorist attack already in New York City in 1993 and I assumed that’s what I was going to see…but didn’t.

Instead I saw the attacks involved planes and it wasn’t just in New York, but in Washington and reports of other possible hijacked planes were beginning to come in.

I went to the kitchen where my mom was washing dishes. I remember telling her, “It’s bad.”

Every time I think of 9/11 I remember how I felt—numb. For one of the first times in my life I was honestly scared of what was going to happen to my country.

In some ways I felt like a little child who found out his super hero was just as mortal as him.

That giant’s shadow I had hidden underneath was gone. Everything I had known was being threatened. Things weren’t so innocent anymore.

After pulling ourselves away from the television, my mom and I sat on our deck looking at the sky. It was an ideal late summer day in New York State; it was getting cooler and whitest clouds I had ever seen contrasted against a bright blue sky.

There seemed to be nothing wrong in the world. The breeze was swaying the apple tree branches, heavy with maturing fruit. My little cousin, who was eight months old at the time, was still in midst of his morning nap, breathing deeply into his white baby blanket, his red curls clinging to his sweaty forehead.

As we sat there on the deck my mom and I said nothing, a rare act for us.

It was hard to sleep that evening. Everything I had seen that day kept rolling through my mind. I slept with the light on that night.

I remember how odd it felt to laugh for the first time after 9/11. Like after a relative dies, and awkward giggle that doesn’t feel natural. As if you forgot what a laugh sounded like.

We always believe it’s hard to heal…but it’s not. It’s harder to remember.

And so that’s why I make a point to watch all the documentaries and memorials held for the victims, no matter how many times it makes me shutter to listen to the stories from survivors and watch the images of the planes as they tore through the buildings and the chaos that pursued afterwards.

It reminds me so I don’t forget.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.