Womensforum Editor Sharareh Drury reflects on 9/11.
13 years. It is incredible how powerful a date September 11th is 13 years later. It's a date that before 2001, probably wasn’t too significant to most people.
Well… in 1609, it was when Henry Hudson discovered Manhattan Island. The Hope Diamond was stolen on that day in 1792. In 1941, ground was broken for the construction of the Pentagon.
In 1992, my little brother Johnathan was born. He’s becoming a man now, in a world where so much has changed in 13 years, both for better and worse.
My father told me that September 11th for my generation was like the John F. Kennedy assassination for his. Everyone remembers where they were when the news broke, and how they spent the whole day, as well as days and weeks after, wondering what had they witnessed.
September 11th, 2001… I was busy studying state capitals in my seventh-grade geography class in the small southern town of Germantown, TN.
That day, my father was getting ready for a morning meeting during the annual N.A.B.E. and A.U.B.E.R business conference, within the north tower of New York City’s World Trade Center.
I was eager to share my knowledge of capitals with my friends. My father had made this a “fun” activity at home. We’d get nickels for every state we could name and quarters for each capital. He did this same trick to help us remember presidents, their parties, and years they were in office. I was on top of my game when my teacher wheeled in a small television set. All she could get out of her shaking body were the words, “Our country has been attacked!”
To a group of seventh-graders who had until that moment no knowledge of terrorism or what a terrorist was, we sat silent, confused.
My eyes snapped to a television screen showing a set of tall twin towers with the top parts engulfed in flame and smoke. I then noticed a graphic span across the bottom of the screen, reading “New York City.” I stared in disbelief. This couldn’t be happening.
I didn’t know much about my parents’ day to day work, but I knew my father was an economist. I knew he was in New York City. And I tried to remember if he was anywhere by those towers.
I then wondered if my little brother and sister, who were in elementary school at the time, were also watching a TV screen. I worried my brother was seeing this kind of news on his birthday.
Back at our house, my mother was watching. I can’t imagine all that went through her mind. All I do know is despite not knowing if her husband was OK or what was going to happen in New York or around the world, she had to go protect her children. She rushed over to my brother and sister’s elementary school to tell the staff to not turn on any televisions, not allow any children near computers. When they learned of what happened, they were more than able to agree.
She wanted the same to happen at my school but it had been too late. In the chaos of her trying to find out more of what happened and if my father was all right, she asked that at least I see no more news until she had a chance to speak to me.
That afternoon, when she picked me up from school, I immediately asked if she knew what was going on. She hushed me, making an eye at my little brother and sister in the backseat, and I realized they had no idea. The few minutes it took to drive us all home felt like hours and hours. Tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t handle not knowing.
Finally, when she got us all inside, she shakily explained the situation, very quickly telling us that yes, my father was alive and all right. He had escaped.
She then told us how planes had hit those iconic towers in New York, along with one hitting the Pentagon and another deterred to a field in countryside Pennsylvania. We were all so young and try as she did, we were unable to comprehend these events. I don’t think even 13 years later, I’m able to…
My father returned him by the end of the week, shaken and changed. It wasn’t until years later that my father told me what he had seen that day. The horror of the attacks, the heroism of every day people. When he finished, he looked up at me with tears. I had never seen my father cry.
He told me how this day would change things for him, my family, our country. Everything was going to change.
My father, mother and I at my college graduation from the University of Southern California (2011).
Growing Up After 9/11
Being part Iranian and growing up in the South, 9/11 did not make it easy to “fit in.” It was like a switch was flipped in my small town. People who I had never had issues with were calling me Osama bin Laden’s niece, pushing me in hallways, making me feel like an alien in my own skin. How could people treat me like that? I had nearly lost my father… so how could they liken me to a terrorist?
I learned soon enough that my generation would be dealing with the repercussions of 9/11 for many years to come. Both from how we viewed ourselves, our country and its security to how we treat one another. When I see news of ISIS today, I honestly can’t understand it. I can’t understand how such evil continues and how the cycle seems never-ending.
But then… despite all the terrors we read headlines about, there are also great triumphs. They are big and small, all to make the world and our lives better and happier. Charities, speeches, movements, actions, successes. Engagements.
12 years after the attacks, the love of my life proposed to me. Far before that day, he had shown me how much goodness there can be in a person and in the world.
I am a journalist after all so it’s my job to read those harsh headlines along with the positive ones, and in that job it can become all to easy to cast a shadowy look at the world.
My fiancé Dallas is a healer though, literally and figuratively. He’s in medical school, and he’s also just a good, good soul. Despite all the bad things that can happen, he’s shown me how to understand, reflect, and do what I can to make things better.
The Power of a Day
So much has changed in 13 years. We’ve learned that despite tragedy and sadness, hardships we and our country have faced, there is a still a possibility to well… be happy.
We cannot let one day, a group, an action, or even multiple actions keep us from pursuing our happiness and of course, achieving it.
Like anything, if you give a day too much power, it overpowers you. If you realize that life is life and dates are dates and all you have is this short blink of time, then you can start living to the fullest. There will be birthdays, graduations, a wedding, a baby…
Just live to see what future dates can bring. That’s all we can do, and it’s simply beautiful.