Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flags at the Park

Today Charlie and I met up with some other moms and kids in our ward at a nearby park where a local bank had set up a few hundred American flags to commemorate the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

I don't know why I always get into a funk on September 11. I'm a little touchy about the way the day is remembered, especially since moving away from the greater New York City area. I certainly don't have a monopoly on bad memories of that day. I didn't experience the loss that some of my friends did. But I don't always understand the grief people outwardly demonstrate for September 11. It bothers me when people cry and carry on about a tragedy that happened thousands of miles away from their homes.

They don't really know, you know?

Most of my fears on September 11 were for my father, who was trapped in midtown Manhattan that day. I was with him on the phone for a few seconds before the line cut out. I wondered if I would be the last person in my family to speak to my dad.

I admit, I didn't think much about the first responders that day, but I do now. Giving one's life to save another's is the ultimate test of an emergency worker's commitment to his calling, I think. I also think of the cab and limo drivers who ferried people out of the city sprawl through the night. I'm grateful to them for getting my dad home to us eventually. The city was drawn together in an incredible way in the wake of the attack. And that's something worth remembering, too.

While I was pushing Charlie in a swing, a few moms fell into a conversation about grocery stores, and which were to be avoided because of the race and socioeconomic status of those who chose to shop there.

It was a little shocking to hear these educated, middle class women engage in this sort of talk. Sometimes I wonder how far we've really come in the last hundred or two hundred years.

I thought about the state of our nation. There are countless things I love about the United States, and a number of things about my country--and its people--that I find embarrassing at best, deplorable at worst.

But I'm grateful that I enjoy such a huge measure of freedom. The general absence of fear in my life is a tremendous blessing. I'm grateful to know that I can drive in my car whenever I want. That I can take my baby to a park and socialize with whomever I choose. That I can vote, that I can speak my mind in public forums, that I can blog about whatever I darn well please. For that, I say God bless America, for better or for worse.


  1. Hilary- love your pictures of Charlie here. And appreciate your sentiment, echoing mine. A wonderful piece!!

  2. Amen. Thanks for sharing, Hilary!!

  3. I get the funk, I really do. And I get feeling protective of a tragedy you had a personal stake in. I feel the same way when someone cries about not being pregnant after three whole months of trying. But like you said, it wasn't just the people in the towers or on the planes or responding to the call who were affected that day--it was the whole city that banded together and helped. My roommate at BYU was from Connecticut, and her dad worked in a building across the street from the towers. I remember how frantic she was. I had work and classes that day, but every spare minute I joined masses of people huddled around tv sets all over campus. We all stood there in shock. Sure, I didn't have any family members in NYC, but it didn't matter because all of those people were SOMEONE'S family. It was a brief moment of national solidarity. It affected all of us.

    I don't cry or commemorate every 9/11, and I haven't made a pilgrimage to ground zero, but I, too, feel I have a personal stake in that tragedy. Just as I have a personal stake in WWII, in the Boston bombings, in the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. My grief isn't any greater or better or more authentic than anyone else's, but it is real. Mourning with those that mourn is a sacred priveledge.

  4. I completely agree Hilary. I appreciate those who mourn for the magnitude of the loss, and it's wonderful to have people feel solidarity in those moments, but I'll never forget being in a classroom in Orange County while not being able to reach my dad back in Connecticut, hoping he was home and not in the city that day. And I'll never forget the kids around me crying, and all I could think was that we were thousands of miles away... it just seemed odd.

    But these pictures of your precious baby are darling and your thoughts are perfectly stated.