This morning on WTHR Channel 13's "Indiana Insiders," we had a lot of fun joking about polling numbers, candidates' chances, and what we should expect now only two months out from the election. Being on set is always fun and sharing it with very talented and kind individuals means it is always a great time. I love the opportunities I get to talk about politics with some of the most important and influential folks in the state and though we take our jobs seriously, we don't take ourselves too seriously. Quiet moments and pauses for solitude are rare (it is TV after all) but on a day like today, you have to stop and remember exactly what happened 15 years ago and what it meant to our country and our people.
There are moments in your life you never forget. Most of them are personal. I remember how determined I felt when I went for a job before defending my dissertation, how excited I was when I was standing at the back of the church before getting married, how happy I was when I picked up my dog for the first time and hugged her so tightly because I couldn't believe she was mine. No one else cares about those moments, and rightly so. They only have meaning to me. But then you have the communal moments; the points in time where everyone was seemingly affected in someway and those very events that, despite how tragic or devastating, serve as a bond to unite people together.
9/11 wasn't the scariest day of my life. I was in 9th grade, in math class, when the teacher refused to let us turn on the TV (despite proclaims from other students in the hall that something terrible happened in New York) and made us take our math test. When everyone completed the exam and there were still a few minutes remanding in the period, he clicked the TV on, only to reveal the horrified mess of not one now, but two, buildings burning and crumpling to the ground. We were in shock--both too young, too unaware, and too far away to truly comprehend it in perspective.
Ten years later, I was working on my PhD, in my first year of the program at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. We woke up to warnings of potential tornados on the morning of Wednesday, April 27th but few took them seriously--after all, we had consecutive days of similar threats all week and none yielded a real hazard. Around 5:00, when I was sitting in a Women's Studies class, the lights flickered and a voice on the PA system demanded we seek shelter. Squeezing into a closet in a building constructed just after the Civil War (and named for a slave-owning Confederate), nearly one dozen of us sat silently in the dark as a freight-train sound whirled outside. When we eventually evacuated, first the building and then the city, dozens of lives were gone, hundreds of homes were destroyed, and the city I loved looked like it had been bombed to pieces.
For me, 9/11 and 4/27/11 have similar places in my heart. I was fortunate enough to not be directly hurt by either one, though many people were not as lucky. Tuscaloosa came together stronger than before and when references to the tornados that killed so many and wiped out entire neighborhoods were mentioned the following year, tears were as much a response of the pride to the community's bonding as they were a sad remembrance of the pain and loss.
9/11 changed American irreparably changed so much in our country, culturally and politically. My college students, only in kindergarten or early elementary during the tragedy, will never know what it is like to wait in the terminal of an airport for someone to get off the plane. They are used to the TSA, the NSA, the DoHS, and even make jokes to the mundaneness of their tasks. I am not sure 9/11 has the same meaning to them as it does to me, and I am quite sure it means something different to those who were directly affected by the events. But despite the bad, despite the fear and the concern, despite the confusion and the outcry, the community bonds generated from that day are one of the things that make me most proud to be an American. On a news set with three other very different people, who come from different backgrounds, have different ages, identities, and lived experiences, and are simply very different from me, we can passionately argue and affectionately joke and still disregard those differences in recognition of our common national identity and remember one of the most important events that defines it. Despite the sadness, good can come from evil and every time we remember such devastation and work a little harder to find the good in others and ourselves, we prove the memory of that day is not in vain.
Never forgot, never could, never will. 9-11-01 and 4-27-11.