I can’t comprehend what happened on 9/11. I probably never will be able to comprehend it. And the fact that I can’t comprehend it, probably isn’t such a bad thing.
My memories of that day ten years ago are blurry. I remember specific details, but everything else around them has completely been erased from my memory. I remember standing at the bus stop watching the sunrise, and how the air was just starting to shift from summer to the first cool of fall. I remember feeling terribly, terribly small in my first period pre-algebra class as the principal came on the PA system to tell us all what had happened. I remember driving around and around on my school bus that afternoon, in the middle of nowhere, looking for the back gate the base had agreed to open amidst the lockdown so that we could get home – because where else were we going to go, especially when no one was really even sure when the lockdown was going to be lifted?
Most of that day – and the days after – have been lost, though, just a blur of me watching the news and feeling scared and wondering if it was going to happen again. My sister – who was 8 when it happened – mentioned to me when we were in Target looking at Barbies yesterday how we spent the entire day after, when we didn’t go to school because the buses decided to not even try, not when it was taking people a minimum of four hours to get onto the base because the guards were stopping to check every single vehicle trying to pass through – we spent that entire day playing with our Barbies at the kitchen table while our mom watched the news. I remember not going to school that day, but that’s the only thing I remember. I don’t remember the thing with the Barbies at all.
I wish I still had my journals from junior high. I know I wrote in it that day. I’m really curious to see what my 12-year-old self said, how I tried to explain it to my journal. All I remember is sitting with my band class in the choir room, watching the news. It was my second week of junior high, and I remember being completely unable to comprehend what I was watching.
I’m 22 now. I just spent the past four years getting a degree in history. My two concentrations were medieval history and 20th century U.S. history, which are two areas that are full of ideological conflict. For my senior thesis, I spent an entire three months analyzing primary sources about the Crusades, dissecting the hatred and suspicion three groups of people had for each other based on ideological grounds. In a future that is drawing increasingly nearer, it will be my job to take history and help students who will be the same age I was when 9/11 happened, understand why these things happen, how the historical narrative explains things, and so on and on and on.
I still can’t comprehend what I was seeing that day. Things like compassion and humanity – those are essential parts of my worldview. I literally cannot understand hating someone enough that I am willing to murder thousands of people just to prove a point. I can’t understand willingly inflicting terror on people. I can’t understand the desire to watch people suffer.