It's been eleven years since that particular September 11th. To be fair, I didn't realize it was September 11th until I was in the car this morning on my way to work and the radio DJ mentioned that they would not be doing one of their contests today, as they didn't feel it was appropriate.
My first thought was Good for you.
My second thought was Wait, it's September 11th already?
It sneaks up on me more and more each year, which I never thought it would do. I never thought that there would be a day when I would be unaware of it, that there would be a day when I didn't think about it. In some ways, I suppose there hasn't been, since in a post- 9/11 era everything has changed.
I wrote about it last year, so I don't need to go over where I was and what I was doing that day.
But so much has changed.
I remember my first semester teaching--this would have been the fall of 2005. I taught on September 11th to a developmental English class whose course I had designed around the Bill of Rights. I don't know how much English I taught them that day, but I know that we had the best discussion we'd had all semester.
I thought about doing that tomorrow with my English class, and then realized that in 2001, most of them were six or seven. And they're only going to get younger.
I went to Yahoo this morning to read the news, and expected all of the front page to be coverage of the memorial. It wasn't. There are a few stories, sure. One of them is about whether or not we've passed a turning point.
God, I hope not. My mother has said in the past that they ought to show the news footage every September 11th. I haven't always agreed, because of how painful it was, but sometimes I wonder if she's not right. If we don't need that emotional gut punch every year.
I had two memories this morning that I haven't written about. The first is about my youngest brother. A couple of years before, he had met Judi Patton, the First Lady of Kentucky on a homeschool trip to the Capitol, and at age four, had fallen in love with her. She had similarly done the same, and he had been back a few times, taking her a Christmas ornament which she took him to hang on the official Christmas tree, etc.
At age six, his first thought on that day was, "Is Mrs. Patton okay?" Reasonable--she was the highest profile person that he knew. Mrs. Patton had graciously given my mother her secretary's phone number so we could let her know if we were coming to Frankfort so she could see Sam, so Mom called the secretary, hoping that she could say something to Sam to let him know. The secretary told her that she would do one better, and put Sam on the line with the Kentucky State Police officer who headed up Mrs. Patton's security detail, who then assured Sam that Mrs. Patton was going to be just fine and that the KSP was going to take very good care of her.
Later that afternoon, my parents had to go out and do something--I don't remember what. They were coming back to the house when my cell phone rang. I answered the phone to hear, "This is Judi Patton, the First Lady of Kentucky. Is Sam there?" They had just gotten back in, and I handed the phone over to Sam, and Mrs. Patton assured him herself that she was going to be okay, that he was going to be okay, and that everything was going to be all right.
She was right except for that last bit.
It was a few months later, and my mother and I were over at my grandmother's on a Sunday afternoon. My uncle walked in, dressed in his Navy uniform, and we started exclaiming, of course, about how handsome he was, but he raised his hands and we quieted down, because he had a look on his face that we didn't like. My aunt wasn't home, so he'd come to tell Gran first, and said, "There is a very good chance that I'll be deployed in the next year."
At Thanksgiving, we passed around Gran's netbook with the webcam so he could see everyone and all the food from Iraq.
Every year, another memory or two comes back. That day was so full, so shocking, that it's little wonder--the brain can't process it all at once, or even over several years.
Have we passed a turning point? No, not yet, I don't think. Not until there are more people who don't remember than those who do. Because it's not until then, I don't think, that this kind of national pain can be soothed.