11 years ago

On this day 11 years ago, I was a grown-up for the first time.

I was 10 when the September 11 attacks happened. I knew exactly what was happening. My heart had never been broken before. I had lost pets, had said goodbye to friends moving far away, had been to funerals for distant relatives. Even though I didn’t know anyone who died on September 11, I had never experienced death, terror, grief, and the complete loss of security before in the way that I did that day. I remember thinking:

“The White House could be next. The President could be next.”

“This is history. This is what I read about in books, but I am a part of it.”

“Somebody’s dad died today. Somebody’s mom.”

At about 3pm, I told my mom that I wanted to go for a walk. I couldn’t stand to be inside with the TV news any more. I asked if we could walk to the playground near my house. I remember sitting at a picnic table, totally uninterested in the playground.

I didn’t know what grief was. I had outgrown the playground, but not so completely that I had forgotten the fun, happiness, and comfort associated with it. I thought that going to the playground might fix my unhappiness, that leaving the TV news and going outside might fix whatever was happening on the news. At 10, I learned what loss and tragedy are. You can’t leave them behind and run off to the playground to be a child again.

I never cried. I also didn’t cry when the April 16 shootings happened. Some kinds of tragedy are too deep, too horrible for tears. Tears feel inadequate, somehow, to express the magnitude of the tragedy. Why cry when there are not enough tears in the world for all the lives lost?

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