I remember where I was on September 10, 2001. Do you?
Of course, I remember where I was on September 11, but September 10 is etched in my mind as clearly as the dark day that followed it. I remember what I wore (black turtleneck sleeveless shirt and bootcut jeans). I remember what I did (bowling with friends from work). And I remember the blissful ignorance that characterized my life. Ignorance that I have spent the better part of the last fifteen years trying to recreate.
I was a freshman in college on September 11, 2001. Too old to shield from the horrifying images, but too young to fully comprehend and deal with the new normal that our nation settled into. I felt 9/11 in ways my younger brothers did not. They were at school protected from the real life footage of the second plane hitting the building, the collapse of the towers on live television, and the absolute horror that I watched from the kitchen table. I was an adult now. There was no need to shield my eyes from the carnage. In a lot of ways it was one of the most pivotal events in my young adult life. I felt absolute fear for the very first time, and I remember not sleeping a wink that night because I was terrified that if I did, something bad would happen again and I wouldn’t be able to get out in time. To this day, if I dwell on it too much I can’t close my eyes at night to sleep.
On the one year anniversary of 9/11 I didn’t turn the television on once. That’s how I deal with things that scare me. I pretend like they aren’t happening. I imagine a better place, a better world, an alternate reality where I don’t have to live with whatever is causing my anxiety. In a lot of ways I see my long-term struggles with fear finding their genesis on the morning of 9/11.
And that’s why I remember September 10.
Life seemed simpler, and it was. Life seemed safer, and while it was only an illusion, it was safe in my eighteen year old mind. September 10 was innocence. September 11 was real life.
This year, for the first time, I am not afraid to watch the coverage commemorating the events. Fifteen years. That’s how long it has taken me to be okay with seeing pictures of the event. Fifteen years.
For the first time I feel like I am delivered from these fears. They aren’t gone completely, and my heart still races when we watch anything that has to do with 9/11. But I’m willing to remember. I’m willing to enter the terror of that day, not because I am blocking away the fears, but because I’m acknowledging that ugliness is real. Sin is real. Darkness is real. And sometimes it looks like the darkness is winning.
For fifteen years I let the darkness win in my heart. I let terror win. The panic I felt every time I flew on an airplane was laughable at best and downright sinful at worst. The panic I felt every time I saw “Breaking News” flash across the screen. Is it happening again? Will we never be the same? I don’t think I will ever be completely fear-free. There are other terrible things happening in the world that cause just as much fear these days. But as I remember where I was September 10, carefree and fear-free, I also remember that even that casual strolling through life was an illusion as well. Evil has always been seeking to kill and destroy. We have just gotten better at hiding it.
September 11, 2001 opened my eyes to the horror of evil, and it would be a few more years before I would come to the realization that not only was their evil in the world, but there was also evil in my own heart that needed redeeming, but I’m thankful the Lord eventually gave me eyes to see it.
I remember where I was on September 10 because of the awfulness of September 11. I remember where I was on September 10 because on September 11 every ounce of security I felt was stripped away. And now, fifteen years later I have a category for the terror of that day that wasn’t even on my radar as a scared teenager, barely out of high school.
I remember where I was on September 10. Do you?