Monday, September 12, 2011


Relaxing on a sunny field in Wisconsin, I eagerly drank the cup of water in my hand trying to relax my muscles from the first part of the marching band rehearsals that morning. Along with the rest of the Northwestern University Marching Band, I was at George Williams College preparing for the football season. As a sophomore in the band, I was beginning to get into the groove of what marching band was about and knew what to expect: a day a drilling, rehearsing, and some random silliness to help the group bond.

It was just another day at band camp.

For some reason the radio of the equipment truck the band rented was on and it was through that radio that we found out the about the attacks on 9/11.

I don’t remember listening to the radio, or what facts about the attacks I found out then. It blurs with the knowledge that I know now. But I do remember at some point someone turning off the radio and all of us sitting in silence.

Something felt wrong.

It was like there was imbalance in the universe and I could feel that there was a shift in the world. I had never felt something like this before and I didn’t really know what to do or think.

One of the band directors broke the silence and said a couple things. I don’t remember what she said, but it seemed to make things feel a little better. After a couple more minutes, we got up and starting drilling marching band steps.

While it may have seemed insensitive for us to just go about our day, I do believe as my mom told me later that the best way to truly honor this day is to continue to live our lives to the best of our ability and not let fear paralyze us.

After lunch we rehearsed the “Star-Spangled Banner.” I had played this song all through high school at football games and never really gave much thought to it. That day was different. As we rehearsed it, there was a sense of duty and respect that I felt to that song that has never left me since. The performance of this song is not just another routine, it’s a representation of the history and spirit of what it means to be American.

I don’t remember the speech that our director gave us that instilled that feeling into that song for me.

I fear that my recollection of that day ten years later doesn’t really have anything to add to the remembrance of that day. So many facts have left me memory and any broad statements of how this day changed America don’t seem all that meaningful to me. The only thing that seems to hold any significance to me is the feeling of sitting on that marching band field.

When I think about that day, I still feel tears welling up, so I don’t let myself sink all the way into that memory for fear I’ll fall apart. I didn’t see the pictures until four or five days after the attack and honestly, I have yet to see the video of the second plane hitting. It almost seems too much to handle.

I worry about what I’m going to tell my kids about this day because while I understand America’s historical relationship with Osama Bin Laden and some the reasons that this day happened, I don’t get it and like the question of why people are born into certain situations, this is something I can’t comprehend. But I think that’s ok and I believe it’s in admitting this that we understand the difficulty of that day.

As younger generations are born who have not lived through this event and for those who did but are too young to remember it’s important that we try to figure out what this day meant. 9/11 for me was a moment of connection to humanity in a beautiful place, surrounded by a community of people that I love.

Think about what this day was for you and pass that on.

That is what future generations will gleam meaning from more than a news report or an article in a history book. The specific facts of that day continue to diminish in my brain but the feelings are just as strong in my heart.

True memory does not lie in facts but within the emotions of the heart.  It is there that we find the connections that link us together as one and in this time of remembrance unites us. 

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