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On This Day

Everyone who is of a Certain Age has memories and a story to tell about 9/11. It's not a contest. There is no need to point out that you were closer or more deeply hurt or remember the bestest of anyone. We all have our things and our ways of dealing with the day.

It's fine.

So, it's not a contest but I have two things I think about endlessly on this day every year. First, a little back story. I flew into Boston the morning of the attacks for a work thing. I crossed through security at nearly the same time as some of the terrorists, going the opposite direction, and ugh. By the time I got to the office and walked up the stairs, we knew. It was already clear that A Thing was going on and what do you say when that happens? I opened with, "Oof, what an awful day," and the person who greeted me went on about, "Yeah, the weather and blah, blah, blah" and she complained about a whole bunch of nonsense.

She didn't know.

And there was this long minute where I stood there and listened to her complain about dumb stuff and I didn't know whether to interrupt her or not. Oblivion was a happy place to be right about then, but I also didn't want her to feel dumb later when she replayed the conversation in her head.

In a full day of panicked phone calls and staring at a television and ending up stranded in Boston, THAT is what rises to the top of my memory.

The other thing that rises to the top is the days that I spent at Ground Zero. It was a few years after the attacks and by then I was working for a different company. That company was one of the contractors doing excavation and rebuilding work at the site, so I spent a few days in the hole. I took photos of the slurry wall that is now part of the museum. I stood staring at a sign that simply said, "We remember" outside of the work trailer. And I think to the check-in place where all of the construction workers were to take any small pieces of anything that they thought might be human.

That was a thing. Construction workers had a place to go when they found a small thing that they thought might be human bones or whatever. Everything about it was awful.

Some of the photos I took while I was there showed up in my LinkedIn feed today because that employer included them in a blog post. The moment I scrolled and caught that was exactly as jarring as you would expect it to be.

Maybe someday this day won't make the woman who didn't know and the days in the hole come to mind immediately. Maybe it will always be this way. Regardless, it will always be difficult to explain the unease that comes with this day to people who aren't of a Certain Age.

It just is.

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