I was seven years old when the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, and just like most people I remember where I was on that day. When the towers fell, I was at school and had no idea what had happened until I came home. My parents had the television on to the news and I remember standing in the living room watching the towers collapse in slow motion. For several days afterwards I listened to the panic speculations of further attacks. I remember hearing someone worrying that the CDC in Atlanta would be the next location for a terrorist attack. Rumors and conspiracies spread like wildfire as information regarding the attacks were slow to come to light. During all of this I was able to understand that something terrible had happened despite being only seven years old, but I was too young to understand what it all really meant in a broad, universal sense. Even today I am unsure what 9/11 meant in the grand scheme of things.
Today I accompanied some of my fellow CSU students to the 9/11 memorial. I felt an obligation to go, not only as an American but as a human being. It only seemed right to visit the memorial while we were in New York City for three weeks. So we went to ground zero on a depressingly grey and cold day. After weaving through construction sites and throngs of traffic, we eventually made it to the memorial site. The ever-flowing fountains were stunning in their enormity and sleek appearance. I was awestruck by the beauty of these two fountains located in the exact spots where the twin towers once stood.
It didn’t take me long to break away from the group in order to view the memorial on my own. I felt like it was meant to be a solitary experience. As I walked alongside the barriers inscribed with the names of those who perished, I felt like a trespasser on some sacred space. I have no direct connection to the tragedy of 9/11. No one I know witnessed the event firsthand or died on that infamous day. Here in this place of remembrance I was just another tourist and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong here. I looked at each name carved into the black marble and felt a pang of sadness for these strangers, which was immediately followed by a sense of guilt. I tried to imagine how it would feel if some stranger cried over the death of one of my loved ones. What if my grandmother’s grave site was made into a memorial that attracted hundreds of tourists everyday? Is this a reasonable comparison or am I stretching the connection?
I don’t have many answers to the questions that 9/11 and other global tragedies inspire in me. I suppose there are some questions that you can never answer.