I throw myself on the couch. After a long day of work, this is my preferred method of relaxing. I let myself sink into the cushions, letting the soft stuffing of a mattress soak up all my aches.
I groan as the phone begins to ring. I get up slowly, stomping over to the receiver.
“Sarah, this is Danielle. Just checking to make sure you’re ready for tomorrow’s trip.”
“I told you, I have a very important conference tomorrow,” I say, exasperated.
“Oh, come on. We both know you don’t. You’re just making excuses. Pack your bags, Sarah. We’ve been planning this for years. I’ve been planning this for years. I’m picking you up at nine am. If you aren’t packed, I’ll drag you there without clothes.”
She hangs up.
I walk into my bedroom and throw open my closet. I throw an open suitcase on the floor and empty my dresser into it. Then I brush my teeth and go to bed.
I wake up screaming. This is why I didn’t want to go. I haven’t had a nightmare in three years and now they are back. I get up and pack the last few essentials, have breakfast and get dressed. By the time I’m done, I have an hour before Danielle arrives. I choose to call my coworkers and tell them I’m not going to work today, then I watch an episode of My Little Pony (the only tv show on at eight am).
As soon as Danielle arrives, I walk past her and load my stuff into her trunk. I climb in the car without a word. Danielle starts driving, pulling carefully out of my driveway and onto the road, then finally the highway.
After an hour of silence, Danielle asks, “So, why don’t you want to come?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Geez, Sarah, you’re being so unsupportive. We are supposed to ‘Never forget’, so I thought I’d get the team together and we could take a little road trip up to NYC. See where it all happened. Why are you so opposed to it?”
The last time I was in New York I lost my life.
People say, “Never forget.” They post pictures and memoirs, recalling the day my life died. Recalling the moment my father was crushed, my sister burned, and my mother jumped out of a window so that she wouldn’t have to.
People tell me to never forget. Every eleventh of September. I take their advice, even though I don’t want to. I sit o my couch, silent, tears streaming down my face like thundering rivers of my family’s blood.
I can’t forget, even though I long to. All year I attempt to make my life ‘normal’ again. I ignore the PTSD and focus on my work. My job. My ‘normal’ life.
However, I can’t help but remember the children that are missing at Christmas, the grandparents that should be there, smiling and giving too many gifts. My mother worked in the World Trade Center. My sister was with her because she was sick and Mom couldn’t take the day off.
My father was the firefighter that tried to save them both. All three were a pile of ash the next morning.
I HATE ISIS. I HATE TERRORISTS.
I HATE THE PEOPLE WHO TELL ME NOT TO FORGET, when, to avoid suicide, I must.
The first time I attempted it I was in a foster home. I remember standing in the kitchen, knife at my throat. I was seconds away from joining my family. After all, why should I live when they didn’t?
My foster dad found me. He beat me so hard that night I was taken out of their home. I was moved from house to house after that until I was able to get a job and take care of myself.
Danielle doesn’t know any of this. All she knows is she wants to see the World Trade Center, and I don’t.
We arrive at our hotel around midnight. I sleep until nine am when Danielle wakes me up.
We go to one of the many memorials of 9/11. Caved in stone are the names of the many victims of the attack. We walk around the stones, and I read every single name. I finger three of them gently, running my finger over the carved grooves.
Barnette Dash, Jonathan Dash, Susan Dash.
We go to a museum where a piece of the two towers is displayed. Many of them are all too familiar.
I was at school during the attack. When I went home, nobody was there. Two days after, a woman came to tell me that my family died. I insisted on seeing the bodies, and she told me there weren’t any. That they had all burned as far as anybody knew.
I remember standing in front of the wreckage, screaming for my parents, the woman pulling me away while I kicked and screamed. I was five.
As hard as I try, I’ll never forget.
That night, I pray. I pray for all the other survivors and all the soldiers who have lost their lives in the war that has never really stopped since that day.
Danielle sits on her bed. I stand in the doorway, leaning against it.
“My family died eighteen years ago today,” I say. She looks up at me.
“I’m sorry Sarah. I didn’t know. I shouldn’t have dragged you here. If I had known,”
“But you didn’t. I should’ve told you.” I say, sitting on the bed next to her.
“There’s a meeting for survivors tomorrow.” She says, putting her arm around me. “I won't force you to go.”
“I’ll go,” I say. It’s time for me to face my past. Because I still keep it in front of me. I still remember, and I always will, but hopefully, the meeting will help stop the nightmares, the horror.
I will never forget, but at least I’ll be better. At least I’ll face my past. I’ll but it behind me, where it should be.