Sunday, September 11, 2011
In the fall of 2000 I was interning at Letterman. I lived in New Jersey and I would ride the bus into Manhattan everyday. They were pretty nice busses, actually, more like charter than city bus. I would usually turn on my discman and take a pre-work nap. Most days, though, I would stay awake for the view of the New York City skyline as the bus turned south and hugged the Hudson river giving an amazing view of the city. The bus would turn in to the Lincoln Tunnel and drop us off at 42nd Street to the Port Authority bus station.
After I left NYC in December, I came home to work for Young Life in the tiny town of Traer, IA. I went from millions of people to less than two thousand. I liked the adventure of that. That summer, I got to work at a camp in Minnesota, called Castaway Club. This was where I met the girl that I kinda liked, Michelle. After camp, in a move more gutsy that I was used to, I told her over the computer that I was coming to Lawrence, KS to see my sister, and maybe I could swing by Springfield on my way back since I was close.
After what was probably a minor freak out her side she said, “Sure.” Great, it was set.
I would visit Michelle for the first time on September 10, 2001.
I arrived in the evening and don’t remember what we did the first night at all, really, I just remember waking up in the morning to Michelle telling me that two planes had hit two buildings in New York, her dad had been watching the news. I came upstairs, and we sat there all day watching on our first day together. If I had been in New York a year later, I probably would have been on the bus at some point between when the first plane hit and when the last tower went down. I would have been a long ways away, but near enough to frighten my parents’ imagination I’m sure. We went to a concert that night and the surreality of visiting the girl from camp was far trumped by the surreality of 9/11.
That was the first day Michelle and I spent together. That is my “Where Were You?” story. It’s not that big or dramatic. I also don’t have any big platitudes about 9/11, I don’t think we’re to the looking back stage yet as a country. I think that takes longer for a country than for an individual. Also, some things are too big and too powerful and too heart breaking to ever get there.
I think we’re in the stage, as a country, where we’re still telling stories, still telling the story. When someone close to you experiences the loss of a loved one, the last thing they want to hear are the lessons they’ll learn on the other side of grieving. You naturally know that you don’t have the words to say to help anything, so you just nod and listen, and let them hear you say, “That must have been really hard.”
We tell our stories and we listen to others’ so they can be shared together. We tell our stories and we listen to others’ so the true victims in the tragedy, the people who lost loved ones, can know that we still remember, and that they’re still important to us. We tell our stories and listen to others’ so we can connect again, like we did on that day.
Michelle and I took some time today watching TV shows about the drama of it, and honestly, I had forgotten some of just how horrifying it had been.
The best story I saw was actually on Sportscenter. Sometimes stories like these get a little heavy handed with their connection to sports. This one is not, it’s just an amazing story. You should watch, it’s only 13 minutes.