By Jill Simeone -
I had not planned on writing a post about 9/11. There are a lot of great peices out there about remembering 9/11, the impact of the tragedy on all of us, the generation of children growing up in the shadow of that fateful morning, and also how to talk to kids now about 9/11. Did I really have more to add?
Plus, I don't really like to remember it. I lived through 9/11. I was in my downtown Manhattan apartment that beautiful September morning, rushing and late for work, and as I stepped outside I watched screaming people running uptown, and then, horribly, saw the second tower fall. Sparkles of shattered glass and fluttering paper filling the space where a building had just stood. I remember my confusion over what I had just witnessed. I stumbled back to my apartment building and asked our super, a soft-spoken immigrant from Serbia, what he thought all this meant. "It means war," he said.
I was good friends with a NYPD detective at the time, and I remember the agony of those first 24 hours waiting to hear if he was ok. And then the look on his face as he knocked on my door days later, covered in dust and smelling like an electrical fire, tasked with a hopeless rescue mission - pure grief and exhaustion.
So I don't really talk about 9/11 or the pocket of sadness it left inside of me. And I had no intention of talking about it to my little kids. But invariably, as we drove up the West Side Highway, they would notice the impressive construction project that is the site of the new World Trade Center, and they would ask why there is such a big hole, and what are those new buildings. I explained that the old ones fell down and so they are building new ones. For children with blocks, no more explanation was needed.
This past weekend, I finally flipped through the NY York Magazine 9/11 memorial issue that has been staring at me from our pile of mail, and I started to read. I also started, quietly, to cry. There are a lot of things I was crying about, I'm sure (the visceral memory of the tragedy, the wars after, the constitutional abuses, the profiling, the fear, the numbness, and on and on), all discussed with great eloquence by the many news sources that both you and I read.
But what was new and interesting about these tears (for me anyway) was that my younger daughter saw them and was shocked. "I didn't know mommies cried," she said as she hugged me with a big squeeze. How could that be? Have I hidden my more vulnerable emotions from my kids? Is this who I am post-9/11? Are we all a bit tougher?
So instead of wiping off my tears and smiling (as was my strong instinct), I hugged my kids and cried a bit more. Not for the drama, but because I had tears inside that needed to get out.
It's alright to cry.