Last year, this was my 9-11 Post:
On September 11, 2001, I was living overseas. I remember that a local newspaper carried the headline, the next day, "Superman Cries." I very much wanted to buy a copy, but I had other priorities at the time. My mom was scheduled to be on an airplane on that day, and I was trying to track her down, make sure she was safe (she was), and then I spent a lot of time on the phone or trying to get online to talk it over with her and other loved ones. By the time I tried to pick up a copy of the newspaper, they were sold out.
It's interesting that at a moment like that, people would turn to a fictional character to try to make sense of the tragedy. They could have used the Statue of Liberty or Uncle Sam, the more usual allegorical figures of nationhood, but instead featured the comicbook Superman, with a single tear.
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I included a link to this emotional timeline of 9-11 from Mind Hacks.
What I did not discuss was my own emotional timeline.
I happened to be in a Muslim country, as a humanitarian volunteer. We found out when one volunteer received a text message from her boyfriend. The local, government controlled television had no news about it, so we had to drive to a hotel to watch CNN. I was terrified because my mom was supposed to be on a plane to Washington D.C. that day. At another table, a group of drunk men were laughing. Yes, LAUGHING.
The feeling I had, worrying that my mom might be dead, feeling my country was under attack, listening to people laugh as the news showed the planes crashing into the building... I experienced a terrible helpless rage. I had never felt that way before. I am generally not a rage-full person. In college I travelled to Nepal and studied compassion meditation at a Buddhist nunnery. A few months before 9/11, while living on the streets to experience what it was like to be homeless (answer: it sucks), I had been mugged, and using satyagraha techniques of nonviolent engagement, ended up chatting with my mugger to the point he started crying and telling me about his abusive childhood and how his religious sister wanted better for him. I came out of the experience, if anything, more convinced of the goodness of every human soul than before.
But on 9/11, my compassion deserted me. All I felt was horror, grief and rage.
I did not want to feel that way, and so I felt doubly violated, because I felt as if I lost my innocence as well as my illusions of safety. When I returned to the States, I had a different view on a lot of things. Not just because of 9-11... I had also lived in a war zone, met with men who had been tortured, and met the men who done the torturing and smiled about it... I had seen a lot of evil, and it wasn't so easy for me to believe in the goodness of every human soul anymore. I had been exposed to so much virulent anti-Americanism that I became hyper-sensitive to it, and I fought with a lot of long time friends for whom anti-American one-up-manship is a harmless past time, like bowling or "yo' mama" jokes. By the way, I still shiver whenever anyone makes an anti-American comment, so if you tweet one or post it to Facebook, I will do my best not to reply. We would just fight, and that's not what I want or who I want to be.
For a long time, I wondered if I would ever feel "normal" again. Every year, when 9-11 rolled around, all those feelings crashed back down on me again.
Then I noticed a strange thing. This year as the anniversary came around, I didn't feel enraged. In fact, it was hard to remember the anger I felt in those days. It wasn't until I read Maria Zannini's blog post that I felt a jolt.
Perversely, I then worried about the fact that I couldn't remember what it felt like. Is that like betraying the memory of what happened? But that's absurd, isn't it? To want to hold on to the anger? How can you not betray those feelings yet stop being a slave to them?
Well... I am a writer. I realized maybe the time had come to write something. I had enough distance, yet could still capture those emotions, and honor them, yet move past them. I started a story.
I'm not ready to share it year. Maybe by next 9-11.
I'm curious how to know about your emotional journey on and since 9-11. How did you feel? Would you undo what you felt (I'm not talking about what happened, because I'm going to hope that's a Yes, but the feelings you experienced in response) or are those important for you to remember and hold on to?