Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Memoriam

Five months ago, I was in NYC and visited this place:

It was a surreal experience.  I remember thinking the monuments were oddly depressing: dark chasms, the water all flowing downward into a space I couldn't even see.  I remember touching the names inscribed in bronze around the memorials, and remembering where I was when it happened.

I can still remember it exactly, of course.  I was getting ready for school in the morning, and my Mom knocked on my bedroom door to tell me that a plane had crashed into a World Trade Center tower.  She said it might have been a terrorist attack--at that point I don't think anyone really knew what was going on.  I immediately thought of my Dad, who was at a conference on the east coast.  She said he was alright, and I was relieved, and went to school not thinking twice about it.  For better or for worse, I was probably much more worried about what I was wearing, or who I would eat lunch with, or a project that I had inevitably procrastinated to the last moment.

At school, there was a television on in every room.  Footage of the attacks played nonstop, and classes were all but cancelled.  Slowly, I realized the gravity of what was going on, what was at stake and the staggering number of lives lost.  I felt angry, I felt scared, I felt useless, and I felt sad.  I can still see my wide-eyed friends staring in disbelief at the television screens, at each other, and at me as we tried to talk about what was happening.  I felt an odd connection with them, and even with people I had never associated with before.  I explored those connections tentatively at first, but soon learned they were sources of great comfort.  Because if there is one thing that can be said about the events of 9/11, it is this:  they brought us together.  They didn't break us.  They didn't split us.  They knit us together, in grief and in sorrow and in pain, and in hope.

Picture courtesy of my Dad, Brad Husberg,
taken while he was helping at Ground Zero.
My Dad was one of thousands who went to Ground Zero shortly after the attacks.  Thousands of people, from different backgrounds, races, economic classes, and orientations came together to help those in need.  There have been many moments in which I've considered my Dad my greatest hero; that one stands at the top of the list.

At the memorial five months ago, I remember feeling amazed at how quiet it was.  People spoke only rarely, in hushed tones.  Even the city around us seemed quieter, more subdued, more reverent.  I was standing where thousands of good people had lost their lives.  I was also standing where thousands of good people had come together, had put their sweat and tears into a massive effort of recovery.  I glimpsed then what President Lincoln meant about hollowed ground.  I knew that where I stood was sacred.  It was a place apart from the world.

We may not be as knit together now as we were twelve years ago.  Far from it, most would say.  But there is value in taking today, this day, to reflect on what happened then.  Remembering the fallen and remembering the heroes keeps the hope alive.

So, today, I'm going to remember.

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