The events surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy were tragic, shocking and emotionally gut-wrenching. From the bulletin announcing the shooting (I heard the news from our school principal, over the public address system) to the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald on live television, the days are seared into my memory. I believed (or at least hoped) that I would never again experience anything comparable to those four days in November.
I was wrong.
September 11, 2001 was yet another occasion of unmeasurable shock and sadness. As with the Kennedy assassination, the world seemed to stop spinning for a short while. The entire nation was united, glued to the television as the terrifying events unfolded. For days, all routine events were cancelled or put on hold. From the video showing the planes slamming into the twin towers, to the buildings’ still unbelievable collapse, to the plane hitting the Pentagon and to the crash of United 93—just recalling it all is almost more than I can bear. I was dumbfounded at the time. It was impossible to comprehend how or why all of this was happening. In some ways, it still is.
I still half expect to see the towers when viewing the New York City skyline. And, when they do appear in some older movie, it’s jarring.
I was living in Michigan in 2001. But, as someone who grew up in the New York City area and had passed through the World Trade Center more times than I could count, the death and destruction in New York struck an especially sad and personal chord. I wound up visiting Ground Zero shortly thereafter and, not for the first or the last time, tears welled up at the thought of what had happened here.
On a world-wide scale of tragic events, this is not the worst thing that has ever occurred. But this is not how one measures personal tragedy.
On this tenth anniversary of 9/11, I will be spending the weekend reflecting on these events — and the fallout that has changed the world in which we live. This is not a weekend for “life as usual” — at least not for me. There will inevitably come a time when the memories of this event recede. The emotions will be far less raw. The day will become like December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day) — something that appears on the calendar each year but is otherwise largely ignored by most of the country. This is not yet that time.
As I recall the events of ten years ago, I can at least hope that this is truly the last time that anything comparable will ever happen again.