history · new york · September 11th · slice of life

Sept. 11th: Then & Now

My past on the TV screen. My present is the bottle of baby sunblock on the left. Read on to understand this photo.

9/11/01:  I woke up early on a glorious day in my Manhattan apartment.

9/11/12:  I woke up earlier than usual to the sound of my daughter through the baby monitor.

9/11/01:  I went downtown for a job interview that was cut short when the first plane hit the Trade Center.

9/11/12:  I went downstairs for breakfast after getting my daughter dressed and watched “The Today Show.”

9/11/01:  I took surface transportation back to my apartment where my mom was waiting for me since she was in the City for the day.

9/11/12:  I took my daughter back upstairs to get ready for our day.

9/11/01:  I watched NBC with my mom.  We were glued to the TV set in horror as we watched the Towers burn.  We felt as though the world was falling apart around us once we heard the Pentagon was hit and government buildings were being evacuated.

9/11/12:  I was dismayed with the poor coverage “The Today Show” was giving the September 11th anniversary.  I flipped to CNN, which was covering the memorials.  I turned to MSNBC, where I stayed, since they were re-broadcasting the coverage from the morning of 9/11/12.  This is when my past met my present.  Never in the past 11 years have I watched the media footage of that morning minute by minute in synch with the present day’s time.  It was eerie.

9/11/01:  I watched the first Tower fall down in horror on TV.  My mom and I begged my father to leave his office to come uptown.  But he wouldn’t leave until much later that day.  When we were all together again, we hugged for a long time.

9/11/12:  I watched the first Tower fall down with the same horror I felt 11 years ago.  Tears fell from my eyes.  I was sobbing audibly.  My daughter laughed.  She has rarely seen me cry and must’ve thought I was laughing (despite the tears falling from my eyes).  I pulled her close to me and hugged her.  “When you get older, Isabelle, you will understand why mommy is crying.  Today is a sad day.”  She stopped laughing and allowed me to hold her tightly in my arms, stroking her soft curls.

9/11/01:  As the news of the day unfolded, I remember thinking, “Who would want to bring a child into this world?”  I loved kids, but I couldn’t imagine myself having one when it seemed as though the whole world was coming apart.

9/11/12:  As I watched the news coverage from 2001 on MSNBC, I applied sunscreen to my daughter since my plans for the day changed.  I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful September day with our friends and therefore we decided to meet at a local park.  As I smoothed sunscreen on her skin, I recalled my thought from 2001.  “Who would want to bring a child into this world?”  I am so glad my perspective changed since 2001.  Our world is fraught with danger and uncertainty.  However, the biggest thing I learned from September 11th, 2001 is that you have to go on living.

9/11/01:  I vowed that I would never forget.

9/11/12:  I will never forget that beautiful September morning in 2001 when the biggest news of the day should’ve been the mayoral primary in NYC.  That changed so drastically.  Eleven years seems far away, but watching the minute-by-minute coverage on MSNBC brought it right back.  I don’t know how I will approach September 11th with my daughter when she comes of age to talk to her about it.  But I know I will talk to her about it in a way that will attempt to help her understand the importance of the day without making her completely fearful.  No matter what I do September 11th 2001 will always be history, like Pearl Harbor and D-Day are to me.  Perhaps the greater task is one that I engage in daily.  One of my greatest jobs as a parent will be to make sure she lives her life in a way that will make this world, or at least our corner of it, a better place.

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14 thoughts on “Sept. 11th: Then & Now

  1. So much has changed in 11 years, but we still need each other as we did that day.
    It’s so hard to talk to my girls, who were babies that day, without grabbing them for a hug, the way you held your daughter. They are old enough to talk, and I keep myself open to their questions and try to calm them when worries arise, but I so often feel inadequate to the task. All I know for sure is that I have to keep holding them, and showing them what love looks like in action.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. Powerful post, Stacey. You see the world (both good and bad) so differently thorough a parent’s eyes – you experience life through both lenses, really. We lost friends that day, my kids’ friends lost their parents that day…we experienced the horror together…and the grieving and healing, too. I’m glad Isabelle was able to enjoy the beauty of this September day.

  3. So powerful. And haunting. Shadow and light. This is a beautiful piece of writing and I love the way you ended it, with determination to empower your daughter to make a difference in her “corner.

  4. Amazing how you swing back and forth in time. I remember just leaving that day from the school I was ‘coaching’ at. I just left, didn’t tell anyone. I went home and called my dad. The first words out of his mouth were, “Now is the time we feel like much of world feels, every day of their lives.” Children who live with the constant threat of their worlds coming apart. On that day we could all imagine it. Thanks for your writing Stacey.

  5. Stacey,
    Thanks for sharing your compare and contrast from then and now…I didn’t have children yet when the tragedy happened…but I remember thinking about it and wondering with my mom “what kind of scary world are we living in these days? Like you, when my kids are old enough to understand, we will talk about the importance of remembering a day like this…

  6. Wow. I like how you flipped between the present and the past to show how they are mixing for you today. I can’t imagine being in NY on that day — it was a huge enough impact on me all the way here in Ohio. I wish I would have known that someone was rebroadcasting the original footage today, because that must have been so powerful. I remember coming home from school and just sitting, stunned, in front of the TV until my parents came home from work. And then not really knowing what to say to them, but just being so glad they were home. I wrote about my experience last year for the 10th anniversary: http://ihabloespanglish.blogspot.com/2011/09/i-remember.html Today it just felt weird because the students don’t even remember it, but it’s such a big deal to me.

    1. Thank you all for your wonderful comments.
      @JenniferM: We have to search for ways to make September 11th meaningful for kids. I find that our society is becoming complacent about it. This year, as I mentioned above, “The Today Show” barely covered it. I heard the community of Glen Rock (NJ, I believe) stopped doing their annual memorial now that the tenth anniversary has passed. The question is HOW can we make this day matter more to kids without scaring the heck out of them? It’s something I want to think about a lot more in the next few years.

  7. The beauty of your post brought me to tears just now. Yes, we do have to go on after this life changing tragedy but we have to take purposeful steps to create happy memories amidst so much sadness. Your comment about changing from one who never wantesto bring children into this sadness INTO someone who knows her daughter has the potential to make the world a better place provides me with hope for the futture. Today I realized that the elementary students in my midst were not even a glimmer in their parents eye on that fateful date.

  8. The way you went from then to now and back is how so many of us felt today. What great comparisons – and then you pulled it all together at the end, thinking of the future and how to move forward. This line brought back my personal memories: “When we were all together again, we hugged for a long time.” Thank you.

  9. Such meaningful lines, “you have to go on living.” “Perhaps the greater task is one that I engage in daily. One of my greatest jobs as a parent will be to make sure she lives her life in a way that will make this world, or at least our corner of it, a better place.” Thank you for sharing. The format of this (going back and forth from present to past) made it even more powerful.

  10. What a powerful way to show us glimpses into your thoughts about September 11th, parenting, and life in general. Thank you for including the picture to go along with it.

  11. We still do a moment of silence at our school with the older children (up to 8th grade), but for the younger ones, it is more difficult. For all of our students, the date of 9/11/01 is history. The oldest ones were just toddlers when it happened & their parents shielded them unless they were directly affected. I know as I grew up, we talked about Pearl Harbor less, but I do remember my parents telling me where they were (at church) when someone came in & made the announcement about the attack at Pearl Harbor. Another older friend remembers walking to another family’s house for breakfast & hearing sirens. Maybe as Isabelle & my young granddaughters get older, it will become an important day because of our own talk & memories. I know we know how things have changed, but they won’t, Stacey, because today’s world is all they know. (Makes me sad too.) Thank you for sharing your memories of that terrible day.

  12. The “then and now” perspectives are so meaningful. I am so glad you found the hope to have a child and the hope you will share with her as she grows and can understand all you have to share with her about the first September 11 that was burned into memory and the layers of meaning that have been added with each passing anniversary.

    I shared this year’s experience at my school in my post at newtreemom.wordpress.com. Here are some more personal thoughts, which i included in a comment on Anita’s post about the day of infamy…

    On that day 11 years ago, I was in my first year of teaching… not a young, newly graduated teacher, but a widowed, rebuilding life, teacher. In a school full of people and with other family members to connect with, I still felt so alone that day, knowing I was experiencing a life-changing historical event without the person with whom I truly had shared everything for nearly all my adult life. I so identified with those who lost loved ones that day, and thought over and over how it must have seemed as if they disappeared into thin air. That day of infamy led to my Marine son’s brief tour of duty in Iraq. He came home without physical injuries but is not left unscarred by the experience. The scars are hidden deep inside.

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