My son wore his NYPD shirt to school today. A senior in high school, he and his classmates are among the last schoolkids with first hand memories of 9/11/01. Its never been something we talked about alot, but its never been a subject we dodged either. A few years later, his class was asked to draw pictures of what they remembered of that day and he drew a group of flags at half mast. I wasn't surprised. He has always been fascinated with flags. But at the time I remember his strongest reaction being to the absence of baseball. Why, he asked, was there no ballgame tonight? I told him everyone was too sad to play baseball, which seemed to satisfy his 6 year old heart as the ultimate expression of mourning and wandered off to his legos. He used to wear a flag shirt on this day, but after he acquired the NYPD it has been his garb of choice.
As a 911 operator I have some very specific memories of that day. Back then 9/11 was National Telecomunicators Day. We were having pizza brought in to us to celebrate. I am sure many other centers were doing similar things. We had also been through the trauma the previous week of losing a coworker in a housefire....they were actually bringing counsellors in that day for those who needed it. We weren't permitted a tv in our workplace, so our first word of what was happening came from radio. People kept slipping into the break room to see what was going on, but mostly we heard it described as it happened. No one knew at that point how widespread things were, everyone was taking precautions. We started getting calls about building closings and evacuations, and lots of calls from parents who wanted to know if school was being cancelled and should they go pick up their kids, a question I took quite seriously since I also had a child at school. For several hours we fielded numerous enquiries from parents who wanted to get their kids and ones who didn't know how they would get their kids. At that moment it was, I suppose, one of the few things they had any control over. Finally at lunch time the school board decided either option was acceptable parents could pick up kids if they wished but school would remain open. It was nice to have at least one answer on a day full of questions. (We decided to leave our son at school, some normalcy on an abnormal day,
Most of the callers were polite and helpful, if distraught, but towards of the shift there were a few hate calls. They were probably the most disturbing part of the day. So as you cam see I, like most everyone else, remembers the day well. We all remember where we were and who we were just before things went all wrong. What I think we have forgotten is the people we were on September 12th. Americans are great people in a crisis. We want to help, we want to get involved. Post 9/11 that was the most vivid thing about this country, all the people who volunteered and donated and helped. The city I live in raised enough money to buy the City of New York a fire truck. For a time we were the best possible people we could be.
Now where are we, bitter and divided. We have abandoned our clear eyed focus on what mattered for increasingly stupid arguments over birth control and religion and the President's birth certificate. Hatefullness seems to be the order of the day.So yes we should always pause to think and remember each 9/11. (We most assuredly not spend it interviewing Kardashian Stars, though I'd like to thank NBC for providing such a fine example of what not to do.) But perhaps we should stop on 9/12 as well and remember the people we were then, and could be again.