Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Was Only in Third Grade

Reading the multi-media presentation on 9/11 was rough. I was in third grade when this happened, I didn't really understand what was happening. We were TOLD it was a tragedy, we were TOLD it was a devastating, but we couldn't really understand. As a wife, listening to the message of the wife to her husband immediately brought me to tears, I can't imagine anyone listening to this message, and not being moved emotionally. I think this presentation puts us in the right frame of mind though. I don't want to say brings us back to that day because for most of us in this class we were very young and didn't really understand like we can now, instead it gives us the ability. To finally understand, to really feel what the rest of a nation felt. The vulnerability of a Nation that thought it was indestructible, that calls itself the greatest country in the world. I went through this presentation before doing the readings so I wanted to make my feelings clear before sharing my thoughts and opinions on the texts.  

In John Updike's short story (Novella) "Varieties of Religious experiences" we literally experience so many perspectives of 9/11. From a father losing his religion in his worry about his daughter, to a muslim in a strip club contemplating his trip to paradise and his reward of virgins. Which on a side note never seemed like much of a reward to me. I'm not sure I'd want to have sex with a bunch of virgins, none of them would have a clue what they're doing. It sounds more awkward and boring than anything, but I digress. Hands down the most striking of all the stories is of the married couple on the phone. In my annotations I just kept writing "oh my god" I couldn't say anything else, and then the wife in the story started to say it too, "Oh my God, Jim." (Updike 4054). And again right after again Marcy cries, "Oh my God." (Updike 4054). Tears literally filled my eyes, it was unbearably hard to read a lump formed in my throat as he gave her permission to live, to enjoy her life. To not spend the rest of her days mourning. This unwavering love, this phone call that began as a normal conversation asking your husband to pick up something from the store ending in the revelation that you will never see him again, you will never talk to him ever again. This is it, your last moment with him on this earth, over the phone. Completely helpless, hearing his fear, seeing the burning building he's trapped in with your own eyes. What I do remember from 9/11 is my teacher crying, I remember we went into a room where there was a TV and we watched, at first stunned in silence and then I heard her gasp. I didn't know why she'd gasp until I heard the adults murmuring under their breathe to each other, in disbelief that they were jumping. And if you looked at the TV you saw specks of black floating from the tower to the ground, we didn't know what it was until we heard their revolution. People jumping to their deaths, they had no other choice than suffocation.This story was rough, like I said I was young when this happened but that doesn't mean I don't remember it. That day sticks out from every single one in my elementary school years. I don't remember my science fair projects, I don't remember who I had a crush on. I remember the day we all got up, and went into the same room as all the other third graders and the teachers just turned on the TV's. No explanation, nothing, just let us witness history. Were we too young, maybe. But so was Dan's granddaughter. In the end of the story it's clear she'd changed, her innocence was gone. It happens to every child. You can't fight it, the moment they no longer see the world through rose colored glasses. My husband's mother talked about seeing it happen to her kids when their father walked out, when they realized he wasn't coming back. She saw an immediate change in them. This happened to an entire generation of kids. That all lost the remainder of their innocence on the same day, at the same moment. When American was no longer "The Greatest Country in the World" when they were no longer infallible, when we no longer felt safe.  Like I said this story encompasses so much. It's impossible to discuss it in one blog. But it's important to read, it's important not to forget, what people went through, how this country changed. We can never go back to before, that's not how it works. As Dan says at the end we must learn from our mistakes and move on. But American's don't go back, we move on. We just can't forget. 

1 comment:

  1. Kayla,
    Your post does an excellent job of illustrating the idea of 9/11 acting as a rupture or fissure, a turning point, in American history and consciousness that still reverberates today. And it is hard to read (and write) about. I think the monumental nature of this event is why Updike chooses to write from many different perspectives in this story; there is this sense in postmodern lit., but especially after 9/11, that we can't represent an event in any meaningful way from a singular perspective. We can only hope to make meaning through bits and pieces of different perspectives.