This past Tuesday began like any other day. I awoke at 8 a.m., finished some lingering reading, grabbed my morning coffee at the SAGES Café, and proceeded to my first class. It wasn’t until I sat down and turned on my iPad that one single number grabbed my attention: 11.
The tightening of my stomach told it all – I had allowed myself to forget it was Sept. 11, 2012: the 11-year anniversary of the day that more than 3000 people lost their lives on American soil.
If you were to tell me 11 years ago that I would one day forget this anniversary, even for a moment, I would have felt insulted. I would have felt that my sense of American patriotism had been attacked and that my character as a human being had been questioned.
But maybe I forgot simply because that is what college students do – we immerse ourselves in heavy course loads and lively extracurricular activities to the point that we don’t have time for anything else. After all, when is the last time cleared your schedule to watch the evening news or tune-in to the “Today Show?” Surely I would have remembered the anniversary if I had simply turned on my TV the night before or the morning of Sept. 11.
Perhaps my initial forgetfulness represents a larger national trend – that the horror of 9/11 and the weeks and months that followed is moving away from the American consciousness and closer to the American history books. As unsettling as this notion seems, it is one that some people embrace.
When I expressed my concerns to a close friend, her response struck me by surprise. “I feel like people should just get over 9/11,” she said. “Maybe it’s because I’m from New York [City], but that’s just how I feel.”
I am in no position to judge her statement. Aside from sightseeing trips and weekend vacations, I’ve never spent any substantive time in New York City. Therefore, I have no way to begin imagining how the people there or in Washington, D.C. felt when the nation came under attack and their cities were in the crosshairs.
What I can judge, however, is how our nation responded after tragedy struck. Although I was in fourth grade, sitting cross-legged on an elementary school floor when I first heard shrieks fill the hallways, I remember the reactions as if not a single day has passed.
I remember that in an instant all arguments became senseless, all work became insignificant, and all time became precious. I remember that families and friends traversed many miles to be with one another and politicians tabled their bickering to sing “God Bless America” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.
But as life goes on, so do the senseless arguments, the insignificant work, and the precious time. Yet the memories I have of 9/11 continue to remind me of how quickly these aspects can be changed – proof, maybe, that this tragedy has been embedded in American culture, rather than forgotten by it. However, unlike my friend, I cannot say with any command or certainty whether this is wrong and if it is time for the United States to simply “get over 9/11.”
All I know is that I have yet to get over it – and a part of me hopes that I never do.