On September 11, 2001, I was a sixth grader sitting in a second period social studies in New Jersey when my teacher unexpectedly answered her phone a few minutes into class. Her husband, a truck driver, wanted to know if she’d heard about the attacks on the Twin Towers.
Twenty years later, my memory of that day is this:
Watching the TV in confusion and shock.
An announcement coming over the loudspeakers from the school administration that teachers were not allowed to have the TVs on.
The TV being turned off, then back on a few minutes later, because unlike most students we already knew what was happening. Being told by my teacher that she trusted us and that we deserved to know.
Knowing what happened to the buildings, but not what happened to my dad, who had gone into the city for work that day, or any of my other family that lived there.
Watching the news intently that afternoon while my mom was on the phone with family, and also trying to shield my younger sisters from seeing any footage.
Sleeping with one of my dad’s polo shirts while we waited several days for him to be able to get home.
Having moved away from the tri-state area as an adult, I’ve come to realize that my experience that day was quite different than that of current friends and colleagues from other parts of the country. Any mention of 9/11 triggers this cascade of memories whereas. How do you articulate twenty-year-old anxiety and confusion to those whose childhoods weren’t marked by this?