Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11

Every generation has it's "where were you when. . ." events.  For my parents it was probably when JFK was shot, for my grandparents it was D Day.  I remember being about 12 and the Berlin Wall falling, and my mother said "you will always remember this day, you will tell you children about this day."  And that's all I remember about that day.  I don't think I'll be telling my children about the Berlin Wall falling.  I think my generation's "where were you moment" was September 11, 2001.  I can see myself sitting down with Eliza one day and explaining what happened that day and what that means for all of us, how the world changed.  It's the day in my life that defines other days because normal changed that day.

I was in my senior year of college and still living at home in September 2001.  I got up and started to get ready for school, but instead of turning on the radio as was my routine, I listened to a classical music CD.  And then I got in my car and started pulling out of the driveway and the radio personalities were talking about planes and buildings and New York City and I couldn't figure it out.  They were the type of radio show hosts who pull jokes on people so at first I thought it was a joke, but by the time I got to the end of the driveway I realized it was real, something had happened, but I couldn't figure out just what.  My Dad rushed out of the house in his bathrobe telling me to turn on the radio and I could see that the TV was on in the house.  I drove to school and remember just being confused, wondering what was going on.  My first class was a religion class, and my teacher acted as if nothing had happened, which seemed wrong to me.  If any class should discuss the events, should provide some sort of comfort or understanding, it should be a religion class, right?  My friend Trisha and I walked to the Union next.  She didn't have class and my yoga class had been cancelled, and I knew that there were televisions in the Union and we could watch the news.  It seems strange to say now, but for me the moment I realized just how big and scary it was, was when they said on the news that they had closed Walt Disney World for the day.  I had worked for Disney the summer before, so that was relatable for me, that made it huge.

What I'll tell Eliza is that after September 11th nothing seemed normal for months.  Yes, our routines went back to normal, but the fear, the uncertainty lasted for months if not years.  I'll tell her how we used to be able to go to the gate at the airport to wait for people coming home from trips, but how that changed, and how liquids and shoes at airports have changed.  But I'll also tell her that our country came together after September 11th, that we felt unified, if only for a short while.  I'll tell her about the Olympics in Salt Lake in February 2002, because that is all part of September 11th for me.  How we watched the flag from the World Trade Center march into the Olympic stadium and we fell silent in memory not only of those who died but also of our lives before.  I'll tell her how I marched into the stadium representing the USA during a rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies and how my heart swelled with pride because after such a tragedy we were hosting the world.

But part of my memory of September 11, 2001 happened two days before, on September 9, 2001.  I went to a fireside with President Gordon B. Hinckley where he told us to "embrace more fully the sunlight."  Two days before the events of September 11th he told us that life was going to change, that things would feel dark, but that we needed to step out into the sunlight.  And I remembered that as the world changed.  Yes, things were scary. Yes, our enemies felt closer than ever before, but a Prophet had told me to have faith, that everything would be OK.  And my faith is as much a part of September 11th for me as anything else.  When things seem dark and scary or unbearable, I remember to embrace the sunshine, to look for the good, and to know that things will get better.

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