By Morgan Levy ‘19
Call me sensitive, but logging onto Buzzfeed and watching the video of Lumberton High School cheerleaders shaking their pom-poms and backflipping to news reports of the Twin Towers falling left a bad taste in my mouth.
I was also bothered when I saw that a Marriott Hotel offered free coffee and mini muffins for half an hour to honor the victims of 9/11. I have a problem with the 9/11 Memorial, an artistically designed tourist attraction depicting a day that changed the lives of so many people. And while fashion critics continue to talk about how the Givenchy show on 9/11 was a meditative and tasteful tribute to the victims, I still can’t quite wrap my head around it.
9/11 is the JFK Assassination of our generation, the event that in 10 years will go from personal stories to textbook material. Until then, any tribute to the event turns into a sheet of thin ice that almost inevitably shatters because it’s very challenging to do justice to such a horrific event and the many people touched by it.
When I talk about 9/11 I don’t tell the history book version about how terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center and 2966 people died. I tell the story about my mother whose office was 2 blocks from the World Trade Center. About how lucky we were that she had a doctor’s appointment that morning. How lucky we were that she was late to work because of the appointment. How lucky we were she didn’t get on the ferry that day. How never boarding that ferry and hopping on a train back home saved her life, saved her from walking into the crossfire of the debris on the other side of the water. How my dad didn’t hear from her for a few hours because nobody’s cell phones were working and how I got picked up early from preschool. How in my wide-eyed 4-year-old innocence, I had no idea what even was going on.
This is my story, but I could tell you countless ones with common themes. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, only 40 minutes outside of New York City, I know countless people whose parents commuted to the City for work every day and missed the attack in the blink of an eye somehow. People like these would tell you stories similar to mine, ones with fear and tears and strong emotions.
If you talk to somebody who isn’t tied to the East Coast, you are likely to get a very different story. There is nothing wrong with telling a textbook version story of 9/11, but what we must realize is just how different these stories are. We must realize that people treat 9/11 very differently based on who they are and where they come from.
Standing in the circle at the 9/11 tribute with flags on the quad, I shed a few tears as we stood in a moment of silence. I remember that each flag stood for 10 lives and that there were far too many flags. The event was peaceful and respectful, a simple and beautiful way to honor the lives that were lost.
Instead of trying so hard to talk about 9/11 in a grand way, just keep it simple. It’s amazing how, more often than not, the simpler the better.