Sept. 11: Don’t forget
This column may seem late, as last week was September 11. After I thought about this, however, I thought not. This is right on time. It is the time after September 11 that I want to write about.
Have you ever been bullied? The word bullying is overused these days, I think. Much is said of bullying, and while no one has the right to hurt someone else’s feelings, is it bullying just to be hateful? Am I being bullied just because you said something I didn’t like? Methinks not. We need to toughen up, right?
Having said that, I recall an instance when I was in school that I would call bullying. There was a certain boy with whom I had gone to school since kindergarten. By the time we were about 14, I had had enough. I couldn’t take the constant insults. I snapped. One day on the playground, we had it out, and that settled it. As a teacher, that’s all I will share. However, he didn’t bother me anymore.
Folks, I am 42 years old, but I still remember how that boy made me feel. I remember the rage I felt inside. I remember how I would think about putting him in his place. What is my point?
As September 11 came and passed, I worry that we have forgotten how it felt to be bullied that day. Bullying is certainly a light word to describe the horrific events of that day, but it also nails it. I remember, as I’m certain many of you do, the feeling of that day…when we were attacked on our own land.
I was teaching in Narrows that day. The teacher whose classroom was next to mine came to the door and knocked. My room full of children, I went to the door. She was my friend. She quietly said, “Life as we know it will never be the same.” It was such a dramatic statement; I thought she must have been kidding. I thought, “What? Are we out of coffee?” And then she told me what was going on. I think this was after the second tower was hit. This was when everyone realized it was no accident. We were under attack.
The rest of the day is a blur. All the adults were desperate for updates, and yet we spoke little of it, as not to upset the children. We whispered to one another in the hall when we could, getting updates. Droves of parents came to check their children out of school.
This is the part that those who didn’t live through 9/11 don’t get: we didn’t know when it was over. One plane, then two. Then a third at the Pentagon. Then a fourth in a Pennsylvania field. Where was the next to be? Rumors of an attack on the arsenal in Radford were heard. Were we even safe here in Southwest Virginia?
My oldest son was four months old that day. I had an appointment to take him to get his shots that evening after school. We went to the clinic, and I sat alone in the waiting room watching CNN. It was all surreal. There were no commercials on the radio or TV. Do you remember? It was constant news. Constant coverage. Constant fear.
For days after, it was all anyone talked about or thought about. Planes were grounded, and my own aunt in Arizona was kept from flying home to Virginia to see her dying sister. The day no planes were in the sky. Silence.
And then….we stood up. I don’t want my kids to only remember the horror of the day, but the way we all stood up together afterward. None of us has probably before or since felt such a feeling of being one nation and togetherness. I don’t care what party you vote for. When George W. Bush was at ground zero and in response to the yelling, he said into the bullhorn, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” That made us all stand up.
We were, for a brief, too brief moment, standing together as one. We were not of this party or that. We were not arguing about red MAGA hats or jobs or rights or how wrong your meme was on social media. We all were Americans. This has been said before. We all remember it and the loss now of that feeling. So why is what I’m writing any different?
It isn’t any different. I thought about this when I talked to my own kids about it. But if we don’t at least talk about it, we won’t remember.
While I never wish a day like that again, I do lament that my children don’t remember it. Let’s be honest. I have heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. I know it was awful and people died. But I do not feel the passion about that day that I do September 11, because I wasn’t alive in 1941. These kids coming up, the ones who will in the future take care of us, do not recall the feeling of being the victim of that bully, so they cannot hold the furious rancor in their hearts that we do. This only I lament: the fact that the ones coming up and going into office will not recall the day, and therefore cannot possibly possess the passion.
Some of us remember. We know what it was that day, and in the days after, to watch the news and know that boys we knew personally were going to make right a wrong. They flew thousands of miles away to obliterate the enemy, and we all stood and cheered at the footage. We were angry. And we were all on one side.
I listened to songs this week, like “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” by Toby Keith. I watched stuff on YouTube. I remember the feeling that I forget about day to day. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be that way again? To stop worrying about where to use the restroom? To not have folks who won’t even stand for the national anthem? Can you imagine if such things had happened in the week after 9/11? How did we so quickly forget? If only we could unite again as one body of people who know who we are and what we stand for.
I alluded to World War II in speaking of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The folks who fought in that war were the “Greatest Generation.” We need another great generation, and I lament that I cannot think that I am worthy to be part of one myself. What have I done? Besides feeling patriotic? What must be done to ensure that another generation of Americans will have the gumption to stand up and fight selflessly as our grandparents did? I don’t know the answer, but I know at the very least, we have to identify right as right and wrong as wrong and quit worrying about hurting someone’s feelings.
That’s not bullying. That’s not wrong. Forgetting is wrong. And I refuse.
A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.