September 12

Do you remember what happened on September 12, 2001?

Yeah, I don’t either. It’s been completely wiped from my memory, overwhelmed by everything that was and has become September 11. (I don’t remember what happened on September 10, either, but on that day, the world hadn’t ended yet, so there was no reason to remember it.)

I’d just started my junior year in high school, so I assume I went to school that day, as I did the day before, but we (my sister, brother, and I… and/or the entire school) may well have just stayed home on September 12, too, and I have no recollection of it because everything bled together for a while and I only really remember bits and pieces of that entire semester.

What was I doing that semester? I’d taken English over the summer because it was “an easy” class. I was beginning my third year of German language, my third year of Choir, and my third (and, it turned out, last) year of Colorguard. I was in Psychology, Algebra 2/Trigonometry, and some kind of history class. I can’t remember if it was World History or European History, but it didn’t really matter because I had the same teacher for both and I didn’t really learn anything of importance in either course. I took Chemistry either the summer before or after my junior year, so I think that was the year I didn’t have any science class.

Shit like Britney Spears’ “Overprotected” and Michelle Branch’s “All You Wanted” were still playing on the pop radio stations. Puff Daddy inexplicably changed his stage name to “P. Diddy” (not a step up, if you ask me), and Aaliyah had died in August that year. (The only reason I remember noting her death as important to me was because Queen of the Damned came out in theaters the following February and she’d been the title character, though not the main character.) Speaking of movies, actually, American Pie, which I didn’t see until after college, was not yet a damn franchise; neither epic movie series Harry Potter nor The Lord of the Rings had yet begun. Donnie Darko came out in October, but I didn’t see until the following year with a friend who, shortly after watching it, tried to get me into bed with him. He may have succeeded because I had no sense of personal boundaries in high school and I didn’t know how to say “no”, but when I started crying, he figured out for himself that I wasn’t going to be a willing participant and backed the hell off. Good on him, I guess.

I was dating Angel, at the time, I think, because I remember her coming to the door on December 9, 2001, and my having to tell her that I couldn’t hang out because we’d just been informed that my grandfather had died that morning. The following semester, my grandmother informed us that she had a lump in her breast and my mother (a nurse) flew out to Texas and stayed there for more than a month, leaving the rest of the family to fall apart without her mover-shaker influence. I held it (the family, the routine, and myself) together for a while, but eventually I simply refused to go to school, and when my father made me, I sat in the counselor’s office and told him and the counselor that I was fucking 16 years old—not old enough to be a mother, defacto or otherwise—and that I wanted a damn day off. It was a Friday anyway, I said. What the hell, right?

Yesterday, this September 11, I studiously spent the day avoiding all forms of media. I didn’t want to watch the services in New York. I didn’t want to hear about survivors’ stories on the radio, and I didn’t want to read about it online, in the newspaper, or anywhere else. Instead, I spent the day thinking about today ten years ago, September 12, 2001. What the hell did I do that day? Did I do anything? Did I go to school? Could I have even imagined how the world would change for me, personally, in the next year? In the next ten years? Was I creeped out by the President’s emergency order to ground all the planes everywhere in the United States for more than 24 hours? Was I relieved? Was I even thinking about that?

It hurts. It hurts thinking about it. This day, this day in collective memory which has now been garishly named “Patriot Day”—whatever the hell that means—is branded into my memory like it has been for everyone who had the sense of mind at the time to even realize what was going on. The day the world ended. And now we’re here. Ten years later. It’s not… better, exactly, but at least the wound is older, and we’re more used to it. Instead of healing ourselves, though, we’ve just learned to walk with a limp. It makes me angry. I’m tired of “remembering”; I want to do something to make things better. I want to build the damn memorial or whatever the hell New Yorkers decide they want there and have the museum and then help make the future better doing more good and being kinder. Remembering has its place, but if it doesn’t change our actions in the rest of our lives, what the hell good is it?

I may never forget the Day Before Today, but I don’t need the reminder, either. What do you remember about the day after September 11?

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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