Not Just Reflecting
A few weeks after the events on 9/11/2001 I snapped that photo. Yes…it was 2001, so I still had a Nikon 35mm camera and shot it on film. It was in-color and I thought it was a stark contrast to show that the contractor was already working on the building and that, on this day, after close of business, they raised a flag on the crane every day before they went home.
I could re-live all the events I’ve spoken about during 9/11 before, but this evening, as the midnight hour approaches, I have three children still in the house and one of them is sick. This is life for me now, and the changes have been stark since that day after the turn of the century.
To give you some context, let me explain the title there. I sit here this evening and realize that the events of that day have different meanings to all my children. Their meaning is far different from mine as well.
Abbi, my oldest, was 8-years-old when this happened. She watched it unfold on CNN because Spongebob was interrupted by the simulcast.
Hannah, her sister, was the only other child in the house and she was four. She does remember, but not very much.
Then there are my sons, twins, who were born in 2003.
My point in bringing this up is simple. For my oldest daughter, she saw the shift in the world. It was like the tectonic plates had moved and the continents drifted from one of delightful ignorance to sudden fear and heightened awareness. We may have gotten a little complacent since then but for her she knows what it was like before. She was little, but she’s always been sharp. That bleeds over to her sister, who may not really remember, but she knows how much calmer everything was, how much easier it was to go through the airport, too. She remembers going to the gate with her grandparents to watch her uncle fly off from the gate.
None of that happens now.
But looking at it from my sons’ perspective, the ignorance of the shift makes things totally different. They hear us talk about walking through the airport and when the Mujahideen were pseudo-allies in the fight against the Russians.
The closest thing I can apply to the total difference in how things are with my kids is to try and describe to my children what it was like to grow up realizing that we could, at any moment, be subject of a nuclear war. That fear, though still there, isn’t near as stark or obvious. The movie War Games to them is a fiction while, for someone who watched it when it was released it was pretty damn close to reality. They see the nuclear tests for the A-bomb and Hydrogen-bomb and it doesn’t register.
9/11 had a shift that came after we’d relaxed a bit. The Russians, at least then, weren’t the Bond villains we thought, they were almost Democratic now. But then the planes hit the buildings.
My kids all know the world changed, at least for Americans, after that. We went from a world where the letters USSR are in a history book to another acronym – ISIS – almost taking it place, not in history but on the news. The terror of mass destruction has been replaced by deeply personal terror, where journalists are beheaded for simply telling the world what’s happening.
I’m not sure which was worse, they’re just different.
Then again, for my kids, that fear is nothing compare the to personal fear they felt when they found out their mother had died from something we generally wipe out with antibiotics. Fear is all around us, I come to realize.
But as I approach midnight and grab the heat-induced vaporizing steamer and fill it with water I quietly walk into my daughter’s room, where she’s coughing incessantly, and plug it in. I ruffle her hair, and look behind me and my son, Noah, is watching because he heard me stirring.
“I had a nightmare,” he tells me, and I usher him into my bed.
The world may continue to tell us it’s dangerous . . . but here at home . . . they’re safe.