Today is like every other morning. Almost. I make a cup of coffee. Wake my kids. Pack the lunches. I turn on the TV and suddenly I know the date. Today is 9/11.
Now that familiar pit in my stomach is back. Not the same as the gut-wrenching horror I felt that morning in 2001, but a heavy ache. I remember.
My teenager sees the news and tells me about his social studies assignment — to write about one of the 9/11 survivors. He had chosen a retired firefighter who lost his son, also a firefighter, at the World Trade Center that day. He was surprised to learn that it took that man more than six months to find his son in the rubble, and that some families never found any remains. He tells me that this man nearly died from health issues caused by digging at the site for so long. I explain the months of recovery at Ground Zero, the long procession of funerals, the second tragedy of illness to recovery workers. My son doesn’t remember most of this. He was just two when the towers fell. How could I ever forget?
I head out for a run and my mind clears for a moment. I run by the high school and am grateful for my son’s teacher. It’s important that he understands what happened that day and how it affected so many people in so many ways.
I am still reflecting on 9/11 when I run by the elementary school. Some of the children are outside holding a giant American flag. Others are lining up in front of another flag flying at half-staff. My eyes well up. I think how important it is that they are learning about 9/11 — hopefully about what we lost that day, about heroes and about what it means to be an American. We can never forget.
As I run past the school children, I can’t help myself. I put my hand on my heart, face the flag and join them in their tribute, and I remember.