Ten years ago. Ten years.
I was asleep. I was in college. I didn’t have early classes that day and I was woken up by my roommate. She told me a plane had flown into the Pentagon. I got up to watch the news and I knew everything was going to change. Even then.
It was a day I will never forget. I don’t think anyone will forget where they were or how they learned to cope afterward.
I had just joined a student group. They met on Wednesdays. I didn’t know what to do really that next day, but I went to the meeting and I wasn’t the only one. The leader was humbled by the fact that people came. I stuck with the group and met my future husband. I was also planning my birthday party at the time and it didn’t feel right to have it. I decided to go forward with it anyway and slowly, slowly, everything returned to normal. A new skewed normal.
The Paper Bag
That Tuesday was the first time I ever saw newspapers publishing extra editions. I bought one. I really can’t describe why I bought one. Maybe it’s my coping mechanism. I didn’t want to forget this.
Everything went into a brown paper bag. The paper bag went into the closet and sat on top of boxes of keepsakes for my college scrapbooks. I didn’t touch the bag for years except to move it. I moved four times after that. The bag went from closet to closet in each of my new homes.
Eight years later, I worked on my college scrapbook for my sophomore year. I took the bag out of the closet and went through the contents for the first time. And then I cried. I cried and cried for thirty minutes as I looked at everything and organized it.
Then I got to work.
To Scrapbook the Bad
I believe in scrapbooking the good and the bad. Maybe it will help my kids and grandkids understand that my life didn’t happen in a vacuum.
After that first night crying, I was able to comfortably work with the stuff I’d saved. Maybe I had something unfinished I needed to get out of my system. Just like the bag in the closet, I guess.
It look me several days of carefully choosing, cutting and gluing to put together 7 layouts. I didn’t have a plan. I wanted to tell the story how I saw it and include national and local pieces.
Where did I put them in the book? Everything is chronological. I wasn’t going to hide it. That day very abruptly disrupted our lives forever. It disrupts my scrapbook too. The pages sit right between the layouts I put together for joining that student group and the layout for my birthday party.
The first two pages are front pages of the newspapers. I hadn’t seen anything like them before. The “extra” edition that I bought that day is on the left.
The third page is a collection of headlines and clippings. The entire copy of Time magazine sits on top. The magazine lifts up and underneath it is a copy of President Bush’s speech. The fourth page is where I transitioned to local. The man in the photo is Mark Bingham, an alumnus of my university and one of the heroes of Flight 93. The article begins to tell his story. The photo below is of the candlelight vigil on campus. The quotes on the upper right are thoughts that the campus newspaper reprinted from community members.
The fifth page contains items from the campus memorial service. Since sports were a big part of my life in college, on the sixth page I wanted to capture that aspect.
Finally, the seventh page is about as forward-looking as I could manage. The main article is about the community coming together in Berkeley and how the tragedy illustrates that Berkeley is not the same place as it was in the 60’s. I included pictures of signs for blood drives and firefighters collecting donations. I also included headlines about airport security and tolerance, things that would become big issues in the years ahead. At the bottom, I included a quote that has become a favorite: “Where Innocence is Lost, Intellect Shines.”
I wouldn’t say I had a sense of peace when I was done, just relief. The paper bag was out of my closet and could stop following me around now. Still, if I had addressed this earlier, I don’t think it would have been the right time. It takes a great deal of reflection to document an unhappy memory.
That’s my story. Is it a coping story? I’m not really sure. Everyone has their story. This is mine.