Ten years ago, we were newlyweds. In our little apartment, we set an alarm that awoke us every morning to NPR. We kept it on in the bedroom while we got ready for work. On this morning ten years ago, just as Alexi was on his way out the door, I heard the news of the day starting to filter in from the east coast. I ran after him in a panic. 'Something has happened. Something horrible. We've been attacked.' He looked me incomprehensibly and said, as if to make the words go away, or as if I were babbling incoherently, 'I've got to get to work.' It took a while to find out, but one after another, we received calls letting us know that our friends and relatives in New York were among the lucky, were all safe. One of Alexi's colleagues was not so lucky; it felt like half of his hometown in Connecticut died. We were scheduled to fly to see one of my grandmothers a couple of days later; no flights went anywhere that week. Instead, I spent those vacation days walking and walking, for hours on end, looking at the flags out on so many houses, trying to breathe, to process what was going on. One day I walked downtown, joining thousands of other people who also needed to not be alone.
I did not point out the absence of the towers to my boys when we were in Manhattan last week. They will never know that skyline. They do not know a time when you could wave goodbye to loved ones as you boarded a plane, until they were out of sight; will never know the sense of anticipation of seeing a loved one upon exiting a plane. And they don't know what worry is. When we fly, we take off our shoes as we go through the security line, we limit our liquids to 5 ounces contained in a plastic bag because it's the rule; it's just what we do. I wonder if this is a pale version of how our grandparents felt, after living through World War II. Their children, my parents' generation, grew up with these parents who, among other things, raised them with an ethic of frugality, but they, the children, couldn't understand fully where it came from, didn't know the fears of their day, the suffering, the loss, the fear of attack.
The Encyclopedia of 9/11