Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: I hope I can do it justice

When I was in elementary school, we were handed a sheet of questions.  There were lots of questions like, “What do you remember about the Great Depression?” and, “What did you think on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated?”   We were instructed to sit with our grandparents and ask them these questions and write down the answers.  We were also asked to tape-record the interview (I still have the cassette, though I’d be afraid to play it, for fear it will break).  What a great project that was.  I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it at the time, but now I realize what a treasure of information my grandparents were.  I mean, they provided the 3-D texture for those events, where school textbooks gave us the flat facts. 

I can still remember the tone of my grandmother’s voice when she was recounting how things were during the Depression.  Even though I was young, I still got a sense of the severity and solemnity of the experience. It was amazing, the detail she could remember.

But my grandfather stole the show. He seemed to have perfect recall of the history he’d witnessed, even if it had been a half-century since the actual event.  And not just the event, but things leading up to it, and the aftermaths as well.  And he recalled it with feeling.  I could tell which events had worried him, or made him angry or sad.  For not having been alive for any of those events, I was able – through my grandfather – to better understand the gravity of some of the things that shaped our country.  Even my teachers were impressed by his interview.  They listened to portions of our tapes and they nodded their heads in approval when my grandfather would throw in extra historical tidbits.  They said he had a tremendous speaking voice (he really did) and I remember being so proud that he did such a good job.

I got wondering if my grandkids will ask me someday to tell them about the day the Twin Towers fell.  I guess, by then, the full impact of that day will have played out.  But that’s hard to imagine because, as of this writing, eleven years later, we’re still trying to navigate the fallout.  Like a Polaroid picture that’s taking way too long to show itself, we can see some of the results, but we fidget and wait for the rest in order to find out what we really have.

Because of this, it’s challenging to explain to my kids when they ask about it.  I’ve had several years of practice so far, but as they are able to understand more, I have less to tell them.  Sure, every year I tell them about where I was and how I felt.  I’ve always tried to make it less terrifying and retell the stories about strength, courage and outpourings of humanity.  But I’m at a loss when I try to bring it back around to tell them what it – and everything since then – has all been for. 

All I know, for now, is that the events of this day one decade and one year ago changed the course of American history and with it, all of our lives. Exactly how and how much it changed us has yet to be seen.  I’m hoping that, by the time my grandkids get around to asking me about it, I can do it justice.  I hope I can bring home the importance and meaning and emotion of a momentous time, the way my grandparents did for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment