I seem to be struggling today to keep my mind on the many, many Harvest Festival tasks at hand. Normally, I can multi-task with the best of 'em and whittle away even a long to-do list. But today, my focus is poor and I don't seem to be accomplishing all I had hoped.
My mind keeps replaying pictures. My stomach and my heart are recalling the deep despair. Social media threads share repetitive messages: "Where were you?" "We will never forget."
I know I will never forget.
I had just walked my boys, then second and fifth grades, into their elementary school. The morning news was on the television that hung from the ceiling in the commons area and a couple of staff members were standing beneath it, attention unwavering. Like a magnet to steel, I was drawn toward the TV when another mom came through the double doors in a panic. "Did you see it?"
The news coverage was difficult to follow at first, mostly because the commentators were still unsure exactly what was happening. School children kept filing by while the group of adults caught in a gaze continued to grow. I don't know how much time passed while I stared at the television. I don't know exactly how many other parents were paralyzed there with me. I do know, though, that my heart hurt and I was confident my safe little world would never be the same, even in central Nebraska.
I can't un-see the images of men and women in business suits running away from the clouds of ash. Or the firemen and first responders risking their own safety, their own lives, while moving in to perhaps save another. I can't erase the video clips of spouses in utter despair, police officers comforting witnesses, rescue dogs sniffing debris. Then there were the recordings of final phone messages and radio transmissions. It's all fresh, right there in the confines of my memory, as if I were reliving it again 18 years later.
I suppose folks in the generations older than me have similar recollections of Dec. 7, 1941. The country's shock following the bombings at Pearl Harbor have often been compared to 9/11, but the transmission of information and images was not even close to instantaneous.
Like many from the Pearl Harbor era do in December, I pause on this September anniversary date every year to remember the tragedy and honor the lives lost. I don't know why this particular year it seems to be capturing such a large portion of my attention, but it does. So, I've decided to give myself a little grace.
And on Sept. 12, I will make a concerted effort to recall the America I experienced "the day after." When politics and status and color didn't divide us. When the mantra was "united we stand." When we used our manners, hugged a little tighter and remembered our prayers.
I will never forget.