Sometimes I am uncomfortable with what has somehow become the standard for a 9/11 reflection. My friends shared where they were when they heard, they remembered how they felt when they heard the news, saw the second tower hit. In past years I have marked another year passing in the same way. It is important to remember. It grounds me to that moment, makes me feel like it mattered.
Maybe that is the problem. In order for something to matter to me…it has to somehow be about me. Lately I have felt like maybe the story of that tragedy… maybe it isn’t about me. The story that I want to tell about that day, are the stories of how I saw so much good come out of people. That I saw a deep love of country and countrymen come out of my peers, that the reaction of some of my classmates was honorable. I don’t think it matters what I was wearing, or what the weather was like. I am not sure it is important, what the secretaries were googling when I signed into school. Even if I do remember it all.
And then I think about my parents stories. They were in middle school when JFK was shot. They have eerily similar stories involving some notriously bad kid coming in from the hallway and no one believing it. Somehow hearing them tell the story, their story of this major historical event, made it all real to me.
I am a blogger after all, and a memoirist in my dreams. In my deepest place, I long to be trusted with the priviledge of telling the stories of others. I search out true stories written in first person and essays about parenthood that my friend from work reads to me as we drive home. They make me laugh and cry at the same time. I believe deeply in the personal narrative, and believe I am doing my most political and holy work when I am teaching my students to hear other voices, and speak their own better.
But I am fearful of this all being about me. I know more than most just how deeply I can mess it all up. How easily I can shrink something down to a pocket mirror that only reflects myself, when it was meant to be a sky, showing the face of my God in its stars.
Recently I have begun writing again, about my experience teaching those first years. From the fire in my belly I know that those stories need to be heard. It is an ache in my bones, and they spill from my mouth because they long to get out. But I am weary of this telling. I was not the savior of those students. Not all pieces of them needed to be saved. Maybe it needs to be from a different perspective. There have been more than enough books made into movies about how the young white female teacher could save all those poor black kids.
But I want people to know the truth, of how brave and smart and interesting so many of those students are, of just how tragic it is when 14 year old are sent to operate the tight rope of the world with no net. Some of the same bad decisions that I made in high school are punished by literal and figurative death. I want people to be struck to the core that these circumstances could have been theirs,
What a strange place to get to, where nothing is about me, and I am all about Jesus. I can’t seem to find the map, if there ever is one to the promised land. How do you tell a story that is all about you, and at the same time has absolutely everything to do with Him.