Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Day in September aka How We Talk About 9/11

This is a post mostly about me as I've had a bit of an epiphany and somewhat want to put it into words.  Every few years or so I get the impetus to try to write the great American novel drawing from personal experience, being an African-American born after the Civil Rights movement, and how my experiences growing up seemed so incredibly different from those of my parents. How There are always three things that stop me.

The first is laze. That's easy enough to cure, lock myself in a room with a typewriter,  pack of Doritos and a chamber pot. Then somethin' will get put on paper.  The second is family death. If this thing were to be personal I would eventually have to talk about how death affects a family or rather how death affected my family and a part of me feels that story isn't mine to tell as it mostly relates to how everyone around me took loss.

But the big one. Is 9/11. And it hit me why, or rather I've come to terms with why. When 9/11 happened I was a 13 year-old Midwestern idiot. I've seen CNN footage, testimony and interviews from first responders, Real World tapes, and listened toJon Stewart's recollections,  but to me, at the time, New York was still just this far off place I wanted to visit. Yeah, the adults almost immediately, "got it" but to me the significance of 9/11 is viewed threw the later context of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, not the attacks themselves. This is why we did that.

I suppose yes they changed my life but that change wasn't as immediate, personal or emotional as it was to other people and I don't know how to convey that without sounding like or feeling like a douche. For a long time it was just a thing that happened on the news before I cared what happened on the news. That's the truth of it, and if I want to tell "my story" and have it mean anything truth is paramount.

I didn't take any days off school. I didn't lose any kin. And I was still a long ways away from developing empathy for people outside of my immediate "circle".  If I did have to say anything about the immediate aftereffects it was the uncertainty of the adults around me who didn't yet know how they fit into everything, how their world changed yet, but most of them were quick on their feet enough to know that they didn't know, mostly just staying tuned to the broadcast and trying to keep the day going as best as they could.

You know what makes me want to write that great story of mine is the feeling that I don't really see my story. The story of a decently well-off middle-class kid growing up in a predominately black suburb, neither Crooklyn nor Cosby. And what made me stop writing it was the fact that I never really saw my story in relation to 9/11 either. I'm not a hero. I'm not a victim. I'm just a guy who happened to be in school on a day in September.

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