Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Memory

In 1993, my husband worked for Dean Witter and spent time in the New York offices in the World Trade Center. He was there when the terrorists set off a bomb in the basement, sitting in the restaurant on the 107th floor, the building swaying with the impact.

The power went out, and it took him hours to walk down the dark 107 flights of stairs, coming out into daylight with a thick layer of ash blackening him except for the small circle around his mouth where he'd held his handkerchief.

 It was serious, of course. It shook things up a bit. But the terrorist act was, on the whole, a colossal failure, and people seemed to move on without thinking too much about it. The ability for someone to hurt us, to really terrorize us, seemed remote.

Maybe that is why, in 2001, it both shocked us, and at the same time seemed like an inevitability we'd somehow missed.

We weren't in NY during the attacks on 9/11, and we are back in DC now, where I grew up, back where my father sat in his office overlooking the Pentagon and watched the plane barrel into the sides of it, into friends we hadn't yet made but soon would.

Not much is said outside DC about the Pentagon these days. There were not as many lives lost, of course, but also it seems there's a sense that it is less egregious to target the headquarters of national defense than it is to target a symbol of financial strength. Maybe that's not true, but it feels that way sometimes.

For a long time, there was a huge, gaping hole in New York City. We saw it once, on a trip with our kids. We stood at the chain link fence, peering through cracks in the plastic at that hole - how wide, how deep, how empty it was.

The Pentagon cleaned itself up. It patched the gaping black wound with marble white as a scar. There's now a memorial there, but it is as understated as it is solemn.

Everyone moves on.

There used to be a big memorial march. There were prayers held on the mall. There were walks that led from the Washington Memorial to the place of impact at the Pentagon. Each year, the things we do to memorialize have gotten smaller. This year, in DC, there was a moment of silence.

All we get now is a moment. And life moves on.

We can't keep ripping the wound open. I know this. We can't spend this day each year tearing at the rawness of that day.

But we should spend a little time remembering, and feeling a little less safe, each day a little less a given. Hug our kids. Call our friends. Say I love you. Say I missed you. Remember to laugh. Remember to pray. Remember to be a little more thankful for the little things that, were they to disappear, we'd realize are really the big things.


  1. I got chills reading this...."a moment." It seems like we need to move on - be strong - not obsess about our past. But then when we do, it feels almost inappropriate. Like we should be doing "more." Beautifully written, Heidi.

  2. Beautiful post!

    We visited the memorial. It was overwhelming. I felt humbled. I took a few photos, but none were family vacation pictures. I was a bit horrified watching people take selfies with the memorial in the background. To me it should be treated as a place of reverence, not a tourist attraction.

  3. Yeah, I completely agree with you, Sharon. The place should be evaluated and appreciated highly. Once at I found a picture of the place with the quote of a famous writer: "Be sure you know and respect your surroundings".

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