If we were having coffee, I’m pretty sure that at some point our conversation would wind down to one of us asking, “Do you remember where you were when you heard?”

Of course we remember.

But the moment that really comes to my mind actually happened a day or two later, when I stepped outside and sat on the stone steps near my back door. My then-husband was at work and my children were actually getting along for once, playing a game that involved Barbie dolls and Thomas the Tank Engine hosting the Island of Sodor’s first real fashion show. The TV was off, of course, because the kid-appropriate channels had temporarily paused their regular programming.

It was beautiful outside. The clear sky was an impossible shade of blue, and the trees around my house hadn’t yet begun to put on their fall colors. I could hear crickets chirping and birds singing as a gentle breeze stirred my hair around my face. Everything was just so normal.

I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to pretend that it never happened. It was pretty easy to do, actually, out in the Michigan countryside, where the only real change I could see was the absence of any planes flying overhead. No white trails to show where one had gone by.

Everything was normal and beautiful and perfect in my corner of the universe that day.

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the terrorist attacks on September 11 to affect me directly. For it to be more than a vague sense of impending doom, a shocked disbelief as I stared at horrific pictures of people I didn’t know in places I’d never visited.

It was too much, too big, too terrible. I sat on those back steps for a long time that day, trying to make it all real. Trying to comprehend that the world was not normal any more.

It seems odd to me now, but I remember that I thought back to an event in my own childhood as I sat on those steps that day. I found myself thinking about Jonestown and seeing the pictures on the news of all those bodies piled up on the ground, and I thought the bright colors of their clothing were actually the bright colors of cars in a parking lot. I wondered why the news cameras were showing pictures of the cars of all the dead people, and it took days for it to sink in that I was actually seeing people, not their cars.

I thought about Oklahoma City that day, too. I remember sitting on the couch in front of the TV and seeing pictures of victim after victim after victim, and crying for the babies killed in the day care center.

Kids in school today don’t learn about Jonestown or Oklahoma City in any real sense. Or even September 11, for that matter. To them, those horrible events are nothing more than moments in history. Days on a calendar.

The same way that my  generation learned about Pearl Harbor or D-Day or Vietnam. We couldn’t comprehend those moments the same way that our parents could. I never quite understood why Mom cried when she talked about her little brother going to Vietnam. He came home, after all, didn’t he? Everything went back to normal after that.

Just like everything went back to normal for my generation after September 11, 2001. We buried our dead, we went back to work, and we went on with our lives.  Once a year, we share the pictures and stories on the internet, and we ask each other, “Do you remember where you were when you heard?”

Of course we remember.

And it’s up to us to make sure the next generation never forgets.



On September 11, 2001, I didn’t have to be to work until 10:00. I sent my daughter off to pre-school, let my son watch his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine video for a while before taking him to daycare, and then forgot to pop out his Ready Set Learn cassette in the car until I had almost made it to work. In other words, I didn’t hear the news until I was sitting in the left-hand turn lane on M-40.

I remember those tiny details. I remember hearing WBCT’s morning deejay Reese Rickards saying that it had been deliberate, that the planes had been full when they struck the towers.

Towers? What Towers?

I sat there, not hearing the horns honking around me, and I heard Reese say that the Pentagon had been hit. I didn’t realize I was crying until after I had finally parked.

I remember every detail of that day. I can tell you the names of each client I worked on, what size perm rods I used, how many haircuts I did, how hard I worked because I didn’t know what else to do. My boss debated turning off the radio so as not to upset the clients, but everyone was upset already. We all had to listen. And we listened all day long.

They were plenty of reasons to cry in the days after that. As a firefighter’s wife, I attended memorial services and candlelight vigils. I held my husband close when he told me he wanted to volunteer to go to New York and help with the clean-up; I thanked God when he couldn’t go because our area was sending only those with EMT certification and above. The Big Guy had his MFR (Medical First Responder), one level below EMT.

I didn’t jump on the patriotic bandwagon then. I wasn’t ready to climb on board and start waving the flag. During those first shell-shocked, horrified weeks, I didn’t cry as an American. I cried as a human being. As a wife and mother and daughter and sister and friend. My heart broke for what the victims must have felt in their last moments, and for the agony their loved ones were going through.

For me, it wasn’t about being an American.

When I saw the flags going up everywhere, I didn’t feel a swelling of pride. I wondered, “Where was your flag last week? Weren’t you proud to be an American then, too?” And I’ll admit, I felt a little bit irritated when I saw that those flags were left up after sunset, hanging day and night, twenty-four/seven.

I was once a Girl Scout, after all. The flag always comes in at dark.

Respect the Flag.

About three weeks after the attack on the Twin Towers, it was my scheduled day to volunteer in my daughter’s class. We put her things in her cubby, settled her in to her seat and sang “Good morning to you.” And then we stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, just like schoolchildren all over the country do every morning.

I hadn’t said those words in over thirty years, but they came right back. And for the first time in my life, I actually said them instead of just reciting them.

Did I mean it? Do I pledge my allegiance to this country with its poverty, poor healthcare system, and screwed-up political system? Can I really have any allegiance toward a country whose leaders routinely lie to us? In the midst of my losing battle with Social Security to be declared disabled while perfectly healthy people all around me are collecting Disability checks, can I really say I am proud to be an American?

Well, yeah.

We’re not perfect. I’m really afraid of what the future holds for me and my fellow countrymen.

But when you come right down to it, yes, I am patriotic. I was born American and I will die American, and in between I will probably be really ashamed of a lot of the things my country does. But that’s what patriotism means to me: accepting that this country is my home, warts and all, and loving it anyway.

I am American. It’s part of what I am, just like the fact that I am short, overweight, green-eyed. I am a slow driver, a mediocre cook, and a horrible housekeeper. I am the daughter of a meat cutter, granddaughter of a Jack-of-all-trades, great-granddaughter of a foot-washing Baptist minister. I am a Michigander, a cat-owner, and a Diet Coke drinker.

And I am an American. A cynical one, but a patriotic one in my own way.

I pledge allegiance to the flag

of the United States of America

and to the Republic for which it stands,

one nation under God, indivisible,

with Liberty and Justice for all.

Daily Prompt: Never

“Never” is a pretty powerful word.  I hesitate to say that there is anything I will never write about.

There is a person I will not write about in anything other than vague terms.  It is a person I once loved and respected above all others, and I have allowed this person to hurt me too many times.   But what happened was between us, and I do not have the right to involve anyone else in our dispute.

While I have written about my struggles to “take the high road” and walk away from a bad situation, I have also vowed that I will never, under any circumstances, reveal this person’s identity or say anything that will hurt them in any way.

I also try really hard not to write about national tragedies, other than to say how they have had an impact on my life.  When I first started blogging, I swore that I would never write about events like September 11 or Oklahoma City.

I don’t want to troll for “likes” and followers by milking a tragedy.  I didn’t lose anyone at Sandy Hook or in Boston or Aurora, and I feel like I would be disrespecting those who did suffer.   Who am I to climb up on a soapbox and ramble about what happened in any of those places, while I sit here safely in my living room with all of my loved ones around me?

I can’t possibly understand how those people feel, and I have no right to intrude upon their grief for the sake of my blog.

But – and this is why I hate to use the word “never” – those events did have an impact on my life, and writing is my way of dealing with my chaotic thoughts and feelings.    So I will touch on those events from time to time, but only from the point of view of someone who was not there.  I’ve written about Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon bombing, and even the bomb scare at a school that’s just a little bit too close to home, but I hope I managed to treat each of those situations with respect.

It’s not that I’m afraid of offending people.  Hell, I wish I could offend someone once in a while!  Maybe then I’d start getting some more comments on my blog, and maybe I’d even have my work chosen to be Freshly Pressed.  I wish I could be as outspoken and fearless as some of my favorite bloggers.

But I won’t do it at the expense of people who are already suffering.  Nope.  That’s my big “Never.”