What time can do
As I was falling asleep last night, I got to thinking about this particular anniversary of 9/11 in a new way. Every year I think about my friends and I navigating the crisis as teenagers, living in the city away from our families and undoubtedly, learning to see the world through a new lens. But this year, in addition to that, I traveled down a different rabbit hole of memory and loss.
This picture shows some of the tangible 9/11 history I have held onto. A brick and broken glass from the ruined towers. The mask I had to wear because I couldn’t inhale the air around my dorm for days and days afterward. (Back home in Illinois, there are newspapers and magazine covers in my old room.) I was looking at them and got to thinking about why I even took them in the first place, and why I’ve held onto them 16 years later.
I know, without a doubt, I inherited this behavior (or strange sentimentality) from my Nana. My Nana who had a brick from a local theater that was destroyed, who kept newspapers from the great Chicago blizzard, the moon landing, and the Edward VIII/Wallis Simpson scandal. The woman who kept her ration books from WWII, golf awards from the country club, and a lock of my dad’s baby hair from his first haircut. All of those little things that made up her unique story and experience, that have since been passed down to me.
I got to thinking about the stack of letters she kept from my Grandfather, who used to travel for work and wrote to her, particularly when she was dealing with postpartum depression, though at that time, it wouldn’t have been diagnosed as such. The Grandfather I remember from my childhood was quiet, and stoic – a man of few words that could usually be found sitting in his chair, smoking a pipe or outside tending to his roses. Never once would I have imagined him sending love letters to his wife back home. I thought about how alike he and I are, with my inability to express myself the way I’d like to unless I’m writing it down. About how I still like to write and send letters in a time when communication is instant, but not necessarily easier. (This is something I shared with my other Grandpa too.)
I got to thinking about how much the people we love shape us. How much of them lives in each and every one of us, even after they’re gone. Though I witnessed 9/11 firsthand, I was fortunate not to lose anyone. But I believe that everyone who passed that day is living somewhere, in some way, in someone who loved them.