For a lot of teenagers, 9-11 is their touchstone, the big event that mars their memory.
I was sitting around with my friends one evening and we were reminiscing about where we were for the “big, terrible events” in the last 20-odd years…We all remembered the Shuttle Columbia disaster, Waco, the Virginia Tech massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing and some of us remembered the Challenger disaster …I remembered sitting in my dorm room watching the Columbine massacre unfold over and over again on the television….and we all have a story about “where we were” when the Towers fell on 9-11, that shocking, horrible day.
Those images stay with you for a very long time. …and everyone deals with them differently. As a society we cope in a variety of ways, for good or ill, and that makes us who we are as Americans.
My friend and co-worker, Jenn Carrico, wrote a very insightful article about it for the Saturday Extra. It’s worth reading, in my opinion. For my part, I simply want to reflect on the fact that teens today have 9-11 as one of the major touchstones of their lives.
Folks, you grew up in a world where terrorism was able to shut down air traffic for a whole day, and it was suddenly conceivable that fanatics could hijack planes and use them as projectiles bring down buildings on top of innocent people. The nature of violence had changed. What was once beyond imagining had become real.
I want to share some books with y’all, being that it’s an anniversary of sorts for September 11th:
9-11 Artists Respond (Volume 1) &
9-11 The World’s Greatest Comic Artists Tell Stories to Remember (Volume 2)
These graphic novels are collections of short vignettes from various well-known artists. Some pieces are stark and without words, some are subtle and nuanced, some smack you upside the head. These volumes include works by indie artists and as well as pieces by known artists — artists from all styles and genres contributed to this memorial. They’re poignant and sad, some are cynical and full of dark humor, and some are flat out tributes to the fallen. These artists poured themselves onto the pages of these books and in doing so helped a nation express our grief.
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
Love is the Higher Law follows the lives of three teens as they struggle in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade towers. Claire is just trying to get her little brother home safely, Peter and Jasper had made plans to hook up at a party that night, but circumstances intervened. Now Jasper is fending off phone calls from his frantic parents in Korea and Peter is wandering in a daze and has to decide what is really important to him. The book is filled with Levithan’s trademark humor, despite the stark and horrific subject matter, and music recommendations abound – you could fill a playlist from these pages. There is heartbreak and soul-searching in Manhattan, through the eyes of these teenagers, but ultimately, as it must, life goes on.
Other literature of teen interest featuring 9-11:
With Their Eyes: September 11th: a view from a high school at ground zero ed. by Annie Thoms
The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard
In the Shadows of No Towers by Art Spiegelman
The 9-11 Report: a graphic representation by Sid Jacobsen and Ernie Colon
Cinnamon Girl by Juan Fillipe Herrera
Where were you when the Towers came down?
I was at work (The Home Depot, Garden Dept. - that’s how I paid for library school) and a coworker mentioned that a plane had hit the World Trade Towers. I thought, it must be an accident – that had happened before, small aircraft lose control sometimes and it’s unfortunate. I hoped that not too many people were hurt. Then a little while later, she told me another plane had hit the other tower, a big passenger plane that had been hijacked…this was an attack. We were all stunned – scared – in shock. My father works at an international airport. I was worried that something might happen to him.
The rest of the day passed in a blur. My coworkers and I wandered around doing our jobs, heading back to the break room regularly for glimpses of the television which for once was tuned to the news channel instead of the music or entertainment station. I do remember one encounter from that day clearly, though. I was shifting a pallet display into a corner of the department when a teenage girl and her mom approached me. The mom nodded to her daughter as if to tell her that it was okay to ask me a question. The girl seemed very serene, but I could tell that she’d been crying. When she spoke, her voice shook.
“They said you had the flags out here. I need a flag, please”
It nearly broke my heart. Our store had a huge stack of flags that had been sitting on a cardboard pallet display for months and we’d hardly sold any. I helped the young lady pick one out, and then pulled the display front and center of the store. The flags sold out within the hour.
That simple act of getting a flag helped that young woman get through the day….and I held onto that moment in the weeks and months afterwards, as I watched the horror on the TV (because I was not able to turn away).
As we remember the lives lost (in the initial attacks and the rescuers who bravely sacrificed their lives in an attempt to come to their aid) let us mark this anniversary as we would any event of such magnitude, with respect and reverence, and learn from our past so that we might not repeat it.
Peace be with you.