I watched a bit of the television coverage today and I read a good deal of material on the internet, but it was not until this afternoon that it really hit me. I was in the carpool line waiting to pick my kids up at school and looked up and saw the school flag at half-staff. All the other memorials I had seen up to that point were from those in the business of remembering — television and newspaper reporters and members of the new media. The simple gesture of the flag being flown at half-staff, right there in the middle of my daily activities, caught me off guard. Up to that point today I had been prepared everytime I had read or viewed any reminders of the 9/11 attacks. It reminded me of another time, back in 2001 when my breath was taken away by a reminder of the day.
My daughter was riding a float in a local Christmas parade and my other daughter and I were watching the parade from the sidewalk. Near the end of the parade several firefighters marched in silence, carrying only an American flag and a banner honoring the firefighters lost on 9/11. First my lip started trembling, then the tears started flowing and I had a tough time composing myself before my one-year-old daughter noticed that anything was wrong.
The times the reality of September 11 really sinks in is not when viewing a television tribute once a year, although those can be quite moving, but it is when that reality intrudes on everyday life. Everytime you go through security in an airport, or think twice about attending a public fireworks display on the Fourth of July, or purposely book a flight on the 10th instead of the 11th of September, or view the Arab man sitting on the bus across from you suspiciously, or kiss a loved one goodbye as they deploy to some hell hole halfway across the world, you are remembering September 11.