Two simple words: Never Forget.
Earlier this week these two words helped me see grief isn’t as simple as some might think.
The word “grief” in and of itself conjures a simple definition of dealing with loss, most commonly from the passing of a loved one. The past few years I’ve come to learn it can also be from loss of connection to a loved one who’s chosen to be absent from your life, just as well. That one stings a bit different.
The grief I found myself struggling with Monday was one I’m still trying to comprehend. Sixteen years later, I’m still grieving from 9/11.
The irony is that the optimist in me, made a post to social media the night before about the spirit of our country. The beauty of humanity and the strength we have witnessed through the most recent hurricanes. We as a nation are resilient and sometimes I think we forget that. Natural disaster always seems to prove as a great reminder.
The media after all has done a phenomenal job highlighting our division, most especially following the election of President Trump. In case you missed it, we’re all angry with one another and as a result have become selfish islands.
Unity still exists in this country. In many instances it appears different than what we have lived or seen in our most recent past. Some which is present is indeed hate filled, but please don’t tell that to those rescued from our recent hurricanes. Yes, total strangers wandered city streets in their private boats looking for people in need. Any people, all people were welcome to safety by these selfless individuals.
This could easily take on a political tone if I chose to tip the angle in that direction. On this day, however, it truly is about the grief post 9/11, sixteen years ago.
Monday I came to realize it is a grief I may live with the rest of my life. My heart still hurts and my stomach still flips as I think of all that has changed as a result of that day. The hardening of many souls, the lives lost from hatred, the violation of this life I love known as America.
That’s a bit of an odd way to put it, I realized that on Monday, but “America” is my home. It is the land and the country that so many whom I love have fought to serve via US military or First Responder. On 9/11 … 2001 a group of hateful cowards hurt my America. That’s what I grieve.
Oh sure, there was a lot of good, amazingness actually which happened that day and for weeks, even months following. It’s not much different than when a family member passes, people rally to support you. They make sure you have all you need. Friends make meals, aid with whatever you need and show their love. We as a country lived that on September 11, 2001, yet the grief still exists.
There is truly so much that I grieve that it’s hard to wrap my mind around it completely. I grieve the innocence and feeling of safety we all once knew. I grieve the days when my friends of Middle Eastern decent weren’t commonly pulled from the line at airports, but that’s not “profiling” that’s “being safe.” I grieve the acceptance of my non-Christian friends who once used to peacefully practice their respective religion and now must educate so many on why they are not terrorists. I grieve parents being able to take their children on plane trips without all the commotion. I grieve the peace of mind I once had in so many ways. I grieve the country we once were and the ignorance we lived with prior to the attacks.
My heart hurts.
That’s what grief is and just like the widow or widower told, “It will get easier,” today, I recognize it won’t. It will always hurt, but life will go on. I will always know how it was ‘once.’
Telling my children stories and inserting, before 9/11, is just like telling a story of someone who has passed and recognizing “when Gigi was here.”
For the optimist, the person who sees and speaks of all the good which came from that day – you are right. Yet, just like remembering a loved one for all they gave, the wonders of what they offered to those who knew them, we pay tribute to their memory – yet we still grieve.
So, as I pen this piece 16 years later on 9/11/2017 I recognize it is a grief I will likely live the rest of my life with and that’s okay. Each year, I will continue to feel grateful for the selfless who put themselves first. I will appreciate all that this country has to offer and what continues to make it great. And yes ... I will accept that grief is just part of life.
God bless America. I will never forget.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.