Sep 9, 2011

Where Were You on 9/11?

Everyone's doing it -- the obligatory "Where Were You on 9/11?" blog post. What were you thinking, feeling, eating, saying. Were you asleep? Standing up? Waiting in line at the grocery store? Maybe you were taking your kids to school or in the hospital mourning a passing relative. Were you burying someone? Were you giving birth? What were you doing? Who were you? Ten years have passed, and the defining moment of my generation is September 11, 2001. The moments when we found out are clear, and the rest of the day is a blur.

Essex County (NJ) 9/11 Memorial (My Photo)
I was in Citizenship Issues course -- the bane of all of our existences, it was a required course for all seniors to discuss and learn about our country and its branches of government, policies, and procedures. I can't remember how we found out, but the school immediately shut down academic operations and turned on emotional operations. TVs and radios were on in every classroom. We stopped learning and started watching, breathing, doing whatever was necessary to swallow reality without spitting it back up.

Then I went on to Calculus, where I grabbed the hand of my then-boyfriend Kevin and just stared at the TV screen, watching everything unfold. Kevin and I broke up less than a month later, shortly before my 18th birthday. I entered adulthood with images of falling bodies and ash.

In choir class, all we could say was, "We were just there." And we had been. My junior year, Concert Choir took a big trip to New York. It was my first time out of the midwest, my first time to a city bigger than Kansas City or Tulsa. We soaked everything up -- the food, the music, Broadway, the buildings. The buildings. In our pictures, there they are! Just months before, the Twin Towers, standing tall behind us. Did we know what they were? Did we care? Or did we just miss them when they were gone, a hole in the skyline, a gap in time.

The rest of the day was a blur. I don't remember classes or going home or what our parents must have tried to say to us to calm us down. My little brother was just a kid, I was almost an adult. We were so far away from it in Nebraska, but what most of this country doesn't know is that Middle America is called the Heartland for a reason -- we feel everything that happens in this country, and we feel it harder and louder. When any part of the U.S. bleeds, Middle America dies a little more.

The past 10 years have seen much in my life change.

  • I have two degrees and am working on two more.
  • I have lived in Nebraska, Colorado, Washington (D.C.), Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
  • I have dated countless folk, become engaged, and married. 
  • I have visited Israel four times.
  • I have learned a new language (Hebrew).
  • I have converted, twice, within Judaism.
  • I have legally changed my name from Amanda Jo Edwards to Chaviva Jo Galatz.
  • I have watched friends come and go and come and go.
  • I have become the proud aunt of four boys.
  • I have grown up.
Ten years has flown by. Just like August -- zip, and it's gone. Will we continue to remember? It's embedded in my early adulthood, it colored my senior year of high school in more ways than one. I won't forget, will you?

From the Just Call Me Chaviva archives on 9/11:
  • Mentions of 9/11 (of which there are quite a few, actually)
  • 2006: On this day in History
  • 2003 (from my retired LiveJournal): "Two years ago right now, I was done with lunch and sitting in CI, if I remember correctly. Or maybe I was in Science. I was at school. And regardless of where I was, every TV was on in Northeast High School with the station tuned in to the news showing the planes crashing, and crashing, and it was like a tape on repeat. And that, is where I was. Now, it's raining. I don't have a television to watch what's going on. I can't see what the news has to say in rememberance. I just know it's sunny in New York City, and it's cloudy here. And I don't mind. Give them all the sunshine they need. I had mine."


Redacted said...

I was 24 years old, just graduated from college, working my first job. I was engaged to be married and I thought life went along in a straight line, an even path that led to a set destination. Looking back, I was still more child than adult, living on my own in an apartment in a small city I thought was a metropolis.

I remember watching Sex and the City on what I thought was a huge tv in my apartment. I remember grilling with friends on my tiny balcony. I remember thinking that life couldn't get any better and that I had everything all figured out.

Unlike most people, I don't remember exactly where I was when I heard that the two towers had been hit. I do remember the surrealism and the thought that life wasn't quite what I had thought it was. That feeling of walking along in a straight line, with everything all figured out was gone. Life became a series of twists and turns and nothing seemed quite as straightforward anymore.

My later 20's were in stark contrast to my early 20's. I married, lived 7 years in an abusive marriage, then divorced in my early 30's. I had two children who renewed my faith in the world, in goodness, and in Hashem. Somehow, I picked up the pieces of my life from the ashes, healed my heart, and learned to love and trust again.

I learned that life isn't a straight path, that nothing is for certain. Then, I came to understand that life is still good and worth living and that this uncertainty means that you have to remember to live each moment.

That's my 9-11.

esther said...

I was 39 with a two young girls, a stay-at-home hubby and a demanding job in the City. For weeks after that horrible day, I could see the smoke from the burning ruinsrising into the sky from the front door of my house in Teaneck more than 10 miles away. The horrors of that day affirmed my decision to practice humanism rather than the faith in which I was raised. Traditional religion is certainly a source of solace and strength for many but it is also frequently a cudgel used to cleave people apart and all too often violence is the net result. No deity can save the human race. We have to save ourselves.

I'm now 49. I live in the same house with my two daughters who have turned into lovely and free-thinking young women. I hope that one day they will be able to contribute their intelligence and creativity to making the world a better place for everybody.

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