The Anniversary

I very specifically intended not to write about the anniversary of 9/11.

My reasons seem rational to me. First, I believe wholeheartedly that there are many individuals who have worthwhile things to say about that moment, and I am not particularly one of them. Second, I believe there are far too many individuals just talking. I don’t want to talk for the sake of talking. Third, this year has been a difficult one for me, and if you recall, I sometimes stumble into periods of having ridiculous awful (and realistic) nightmares; I quite sincerely did not want to flood my senses with thoughts and sights and feelings and memories of that day.


…you can’t ignore the world around you.

So here I am… and I’m about to do some reflecting that may be more uncomfortable than I’m willing to admit.

One of the few things I have actually contemplated in the last forty-eight hours is that 9/11 is, now, actually history. It’s a remarkable transition. It’s almost impossible for those of us who remember it so vividly to even comprehend a generation who is just now learning about it in school. It’s unfathomable. And did you hear about the Mattress Sale? Unbelievable.

For those of us who lived that moment in our nation’s history, it won’t matter how many years pass. Fifteen…fifty…if we were still here in five hundred years, we would still recall the day with a clarity unmatched by any other moment in our lives. Ask anyone. No one will forget where they were; no one will forget what they were doing; no one will forget how they felt; no one will forget the live footage. And the trauma of those memories are magnified three-thousand-fold, I’m sure, for those who experienced the attacks firsthand. The smell, I’ve heard, lingered in the nostrils of Americans long after the air cleared. The sights and sounds were just as intractable.

I suppose it is the logical progression of time, though. We cannot stop it. It may break our hearts to realize that the younger generations don’t realize what an enormous and profound turning point that was in this nation (and in the world). Maybe some of that is our fault, for not remembering as we promised we would; but maybe some of that is simply a nation learning again to live and growing somewhat naive about the peril we still face. Maybe it’s that we don’t want to call anyone or anything “evil” anymore. Maybe it’s that we’ve grown so concerned with not offending anyone that we cannot speak openly about the dangers of radical ideologies. Maybe it’s that we are so wrapped up in ourselves and our 24/7-wired existence that we can’t even recognize how the world is changing at this very moment. I don’t know, friends. I don’t know.

But as I’ve wrestled with these thoughts yesterday and today, I’ve realized something that is really shaking me up.

I am someone’s younger generation.

I’m sure there are many instances of threats and dangers that my parents and grandparents actually lived through that I simply viewed as a moment in history, a multiple choice answer on a high school history test. The easy, obvious example, certainly, is Nazi Germany. I think of my grandfather, who served in the US Army in World War II. What a loving man he was when I knew him! I know his life prior to my arrival was not always easy, and he wasn’t always as gentle and affectionate as I knew him. But I can’t help now but wish that I could talk with him tonight…take him out for coffee and ask him about his time in Germany during that perilous moment in history. Not the facts…we know the facts. I want to hear his memories–the sights, the sounds, the smells, the emotions–the things you don’t read in a history book, the things you don’t take away from a memorial etched with names and dates, the things they spoke to one another in those moments.

What are the things he swore he’d never forget?

What are the things he recognized that I and my siblings didn’t understand?

What lessons did he hope to pass on to us from those experiences?

I have to confess, I’ve never been particularly offended by the expression “Grammar Nazi.” It seems light-hearted and good-humored. But I wonder now if it would have offended my Grandfather? The man who told me not to say “got to.” The man who taught me to know and respect the Statue of Liberty. The man who wore red, white, and blue suspenders. Would he have found it funny that we compared someone finicky about grammar with a Nazi?

Somehow…I doubt it. And I say that now, not as a gal who can’t take a joke, but as a gal who realizes how inappropriate she would find it if someone called a poor driver a “jihadist.” It’s just not funny, and it kind of minimizes the very real struggle that others have lived and experienced firsthand.

So what is my point in all of this? Is this just a blog where the Barefooted Semmie tells you which historical moments you can joke about? No; that’s not my business. You can think and joke about whatever you want.

My point is self-realization: I am someone’s younger generation. I am someone who thinks of historical moments as dates and names and events when people I have known and loved lived the experience.

How very much history we are losing for lack of storytellers.

All of this, my dear friends, to encourage you (however hypocritical it seems, after I’ve told you that I have no desire to share my memories of 9/11)… tell your story.

Speak every word of it.

Use ink.

Use paint.

Use clay.

Use words.

Use sound.

Use blog.

Use photo.

Use dance.

Use theatre.

Use carrier pigeon.

Use synchronized swimming.

Use balloon animals.

If you don’t tell your story, it will be lost.

And if none of us tell our stories, 9/11 will be forgotten…and it will become just another day and event for high school kids to study before the big test.

Tell the stories. Speak the names. Never forget.

And though I still have no desire to blog the details, I must follow my own advice. So I leave you with the one name I have determined to carry with me to my last breath.

Douglas Oelschlager.

I remember you, Douglas. God rest your soul. May He grant continued peace to those you left behind. May He fill their hearts–those empty places that still yearn for your voice and your embrace and your presence–with a stillness and knowledge that you were, and are, and always will be the very best of what America represents.

Pax Christe.


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