Before September 11

My kids will never understand life before September 11, yeah, that September 11. They will never know the freedom that came with running through sprinklers and across lawns, and neighbors not being suspicious. They will never understand that there was a time that people didn’t call the cops first and ask questions later.

They will never know that calling the cops is something new. People once believed that kids will be kids, and laughed over it, because they remembered their own stories. And they weren’t afraid.

My kids will never know the beauty of buying a plane ticket and arriving moments before take off or not having to go through some radioactive machine that their government does not give enough information about, or that we once lived in a country where nobody would ever imagine that we’d accept having to endure someone with no law enforcement credentials having the authority to molest us, because the government has tried to sell the narrative that it somehow has made us safer.

My kids live in a world where buying an airline ticket is considered probable cause, a world where cameras will catch their every move, even when knocking on doors  to Trick or Treat,  a world where there is no such thing as anonymity.

It no longer exists, for anyone.

For all the posts that people share about drinking from hoses and the streetlights being their curfew, we now have parents driving their kids everywhere because of the fear that danger is lurking. Everywhere.

Fear is the silent partner in parenting now.

My kids will never remember a day that had the crispest blue sky. They will never remember their father, a first responder, being gone for weeks on end, as he dug through rubble. Or their aunt waiting at a triage area for victims, only to realize that the devastation was so horrific that there were not even bodies to go in the body bags.

Those were things they were too young to know, things they could never comprehend.

They won’t remember me taking them down to the site as soon as we were able to get back into Manhattan, if anything, to show them that we were not going to live in fear, that we were going to move forward as New Yorkers do, or that going there and being with strangers was the beginning of some sort of healing.

Strangers hugged other strangers. Stores offered water, their bathrooms, simple human kindness, something that has long been replaced by fear and suspicion.

I’m not sure that my kids will ever understand the loss. They didn’t attend the funerals or know that families were unable to have them because they waited for remains that might never be found. 

They grew up with a mass card on our refrigerator, a mass card mixed in with the magnets from family vacations and pictures of milestones. They knew his name, even if they had never met him. But his name became just that, a name. They didn’t have the memories, the history. They saw a picture on their fridge.

I don’t think they could ever know what they lost that day, what we all lost.

They suffered another loss a few years later in a war that didn’t seem to solve anything or give us answers.

I don’t have the worst September 11 story, but I’m not competing.

I just wish my kids could know the world I grew up in. Even with the Cold War, I felt safe. I don’t remember a time I didn’t feel safe. Until September 11.

Many many years ago, I lived in a world where kids ran through yards playing a game called Manhunt. We ran in the streets playing Kick the Can. Sometimes our ball even hit a neighbor’s car. We said sorry and went on with our game. 

We caught frogs and went swimming and snuck kisses never imagining how our world was going to change.

Every year on September 11, as I think of those lost, of those I lost, I think about the world that was lost and what my kids will never know.

The world has changed. Maybe we can’t go back to a pre-9/11, but I’ll even take the world that was New York right after, where strangers cared for one another, where we all swore we were in this together.


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