“I shall keep asking You.”
My first remembered memory is of falling, terrified. The second is waking up. I’m not so sure if I just made up the second part to feel better.
Across the street from my childhood home is a court where my brothers and sisters and the neighborhood kids and I would ride our bikes and play sports. The court is still there, but the jungle gym in our backyard where we would also play isn’t, nor is the large oak that was cut down having been struck by lightning months after moving from the house. It was the same tree that I had fallen from several times, canopied us without question in needed moments, the kind of unrecognized compassion that is only felt when unwillingly hollowed.
Too often beloved memories as these when written nostalgically are wrote off by outsiders as a contrived manner of convincing oneself what they simply want to believe, but while it is undeniably true we selectively archive the past, the popular opinion remains that this choice defeats the alternative- letting go. This is the defense of journaling, a branded term as silly as it is confusing. Our present self lacks journalistic integrity and will likely continue to do so so long as the act of climbing requires holding onto something. I offer that more than mere opportunity colors our glasses rose, and what is more is the only reason to live. I’ll let you figure out what that is. Still, I’ll begin to explain what is more to me, for it remains a hazarding truth that what we have will be lost, most of all our precious cargo.
I wore a Joe Cool Snoopy t-shirt when I watched the second tower of the World Trade Center collapse live on CNN the morning I was late for Mrs. Hansel’s 4th grade English class, a wretched woman I rightfully hated.
Those who actively strive to be good are deathly afraid of the “default,” the natural, sinful, unconscious, unlearned standard of failure. The idea quite simply is that it takes work to be good. Even those who would claim to believe people are naturally good would attest to this, likely because they’ve thought enough to somehow justify the goodness of people. Like so much else that doesn’t deserve it, the popular opinion is to politicize the act of just trying to be better, when reality is far more nuanced. The nuance is reaction, consequence, inflation, misunderstanding, inarticulation, fear, and too many others for a lifetime. Still we want to be good, equipped with limited knowledge of what that is.
Often we shape recollections to agree with how we wished we had thought then, and 9/11 is the worst culprit of all. A horrible feeling takes over when those around me talk of their experience and where they were and how the moment affected the national identity through their experience, and how we were all so terrified and alone, uncertain if the world would be around the next day while aware that it would, at the very least, never be the same again. This is how we all felt when we talk about it now.
But how did I feel? I was a child. I likely didn’t even think of the attacks that entire day, not to mention fully understand fear, hatred, terrorism, murder, politics, and innocence. I still don’t. I don’t think any of us do. If you read this thinking I’m trying to persuade you of something, it would be to accept what we do not understand so as not to dishonor those who died and are still suffering.
I have never understood 9/11 and that will forever bother me. I don’t know if honor really means anything, if it actually makes the never-ending act of living easier for those who have suffered. It forces me to contemplate how easily the distance between people can be bridged, if our recollections are constantly lying to us. I begin to question if I had any real emotional connection with the large oak in the backyard of my childhood home at the time. I don’t know if the fact that I feel for it now changes anything. I have to believe I have woken up.
Now there's the job of deconstructing the line between actions and the way we say we acted. I want so much to clad them with empathy, to flank the default with love. The alternative is falling, and I can see no reason to regress to that. I may feel that I have no real right to say anything about 9/11 and what it means to me or anyone else, but I still agree with that ineffable truth that we needn’t be afraid, needn't turn away, even from this. Homeward.