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Thursday, December 8, 2011

What I have been reading...

When I was nine years old, I was in fifth grade. I woke up one morning to get ready for school. The phone rang and being the little kid that I was, I ran to answer it. My mom beat me too it. I picked up the receiver and listened in: "I just don't want the kids to be scared at school today. . .just turn on the TV it is all over the news." I didn't know what my grandma was talking about. I wasn't scared. I followed my mom downstairs and we turned on the TV. I saw the president frantically running in the wind, microphones to his face. I saw two large buildings on fire. I saw people jump off those buildings. I saw a replay of a plane fly straight into a building. I saw the buildings begin to collapse. This is what I saw, but I did not understand.

My mom started to explain. I can't remember what she told me. I remember being scared. Before school that morning I knelt behind the couch, childish tears in my eyes, and prayed that everything would be okay. After that, I wasn't scared.

Two years later. I was eleven. Seventh grade reading class required us to do a book report. I read Let's Roll, a story of Todd Beamer. He stood up to the hijackers and tried to regain Flight 93. He risked everything. He died. But that plane landed in a field in Pennsylvania, not wherever it was intended. That kind of courage, is the courage you read about. At eleven years old, I put him into my bank of heroes. I still think about him today.

Now, I am twenty-one. I am taking an American literary history class. I am proud to be American, not because it is any better than anywhere else, but because it is my own. The last day of class we started reading post 9/11 literature. My professor asked us: "How do you see these pieces responding to the event?" How do I answer that question? What do I understand of such a tragic thing? What do any of us understand?

In Cirum by Elena Alexander, I see a numbness of emotion in this vast universe of space. Where are we? Where am I? When it comes down to it, all that matters is people, other people. (The message of the Gospel can answer so many questions and bring so much happiness.) Life has pain, it has wasp stings: "Love and no love." "Please speak with your mouth full. I would love to hear; anything. You have to say." If we think of life as space, a sting will "crease the space we never see, but know is there." Maybe it will bring people together.

In How I Read since September 11th by Vivan Gornick, I see a shake of interpretation. Why does tragedy demand that we question all that we once held firm? Maybe it strips down all the glamour and shows us truth. (Like the truths of the Gospel. We can see those we lost again in the next life.) We all "stand at the end of history" as we create it. The future moves forward and with it, it brings the past.

In Travel Log by John Kelly I come closer than I ever have before to understanding what really happened that day. It was not just the twin towers that fell apart, but after tragedy, we can build back up to stronger and greater things.

I was only nine. Now I am only twenty-one. All I know is what I see, what I read, and what I am able to understand. After a tragedy, we have two choices: make the best or make the worse. There is still so much I do not understand about September Eleventh, but what I do know, is that that event contributed to the picture of America and because of people like Todd Beamer, America is a better place today.

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