Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I was just listening to a radio review of a new book by Don DeLillo about 9/11. The reviewer was having trouble with the depiction of the post-event numbness, and maybe that is really hard to read, but it certainly matches what I remember, both numbness and an exaggerated care to not tread on anyone else's space or feelings. In fact, I think that going to New York in December of 2004 was in part to remember how we had arrived at this point. Oddly, I don't think we actually made it as far as the site of the World Trade Center, though I had certainly visited it before and have since then as well. I just can't remember. Matthew and I saw it together in August of 2004, I had seen it with Debbie in January of 2002 when it was still being very actively excavated for remains, and I saw it again in June of 2005. But on that December trip, my memory has a hole as big as Ground Zero itself where the decision to go or not go should be.

And about 9/11, which seems to keep coming up: last night at our PTA meeting, the high school principal reminded us that the children of Montgomery County Maryland had a pretty bad stretch in there, beginning with 9/11, the snipers the following year, hurricane Isabel (which was more fun for us than anything else), and for this particular school the loss of a student in an inexplicable car crash: all of these occurred during the first quarter of successive school years. To this list I could have added Thomas's death a few weeks after the car crash, but I did not. This is not the first time she has brought up this sequence of events, but it is the first time that I've realized that it is not just the children who are suffering.

And for us as a family: My children were in four different schools and my husband was in the District of Columbia when the attacks happened. they closed the schools a couple of hours early and sent the kids home to be with their families but most of us just felt at loose ends: it seemed that nothing more was going to happen that day so we just went back to trying to be normal. We are far enough away from the Pentagon or any other significant facility that we did not feel threatened particularly, so when Thomas asked if he could go to McDonald's with his friends I said yes. Forgive me if I've related this before: it kind of exemplified what we are after here in this country, those friends, a Jewish boy, a Muslim boy of Pakistani parents, a Korean boy, and my pale Germanic Catholic son. It never occurred to me to worry that they might be harassed: I was right to feel they were safe.

Thomas's school lost a father in the Pentagon. Thomas did not know the family but it was a galvanizing event for the entire school, which had a truly international student body and faculty. I think it did solidify Thomas's decision to join the military one way or the other--he had decided to apply for West Point despite his grades. The rest of his record was exemplary and he was in the process of earning an International Baccaleaureate diploma which might have compensated for his less than stellar academic performance (it was an awful performance truth be told, because he hated homework, in fact all paperwork, despite wanting to be a writer). In the end he had decided that he did not want to be an officer by the time West Point turned him down. He joined the Army Reserves, and then decided to go active duty instead, feeling college would be a waste of time until he learned some discipline.


At May 17, 2007 at 4:23:00 PM PDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boosting your ego: you rock, I was going to write more but have jam on my pjs and the boy is crying upstairs. But I do remember. And we both pray.


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