My children are studying 9/11 in school. Perhaps yours are, too.
Recently my daughter came home with Story Corp-styled assignment in which she was expected to interview someone old enough to remember the events of that day.
I was that someone.
She had a list of five questions and an impressive background knowledge in which to parse her instructor-led enquiries. She was taking it seriously, even demanding I comb my hair and sit under the glaring spotlight of a desk lamp, despite there being no intention of recording or filming the session.
Let's just say she was prepared.
She seemed to know all the basic accounting. The flight numbers, the tallies of souls onboard and on the ground, and all the places were planes crashed and when. She recited a timeline with an adroit precision.
It was eerie.
My daughter - born more than two years after the worst attack on American soil - spoke in a hushed tone when she asked me to describe where I was and what I was doing the moment I learned about the carnage.
I knew what I would tell her. I knew it word-for-word.
We each have a version of events that we hold sacred. A version that marks our individual suffering and pinpoints the fissures that formed in the world as we watched the smoke rise on tiny screens. My version had been honed with each passing year.
I tried not to wax poetic as she scribbled notes in the paragraph-wide spaces partitioning each line of the script.
I spoke about the uncertainty and the shock. I tried to explain feelings of horror and numbness that somehow blossomed into pride and a sense of unity. I spoke about people I'd met who'd experienced unbearable loss, and people who had shown exceptional courage. I talked about how one horrible day changed the course of our nation.
And I talked about disappointment.
She kept writing as I tried to make it all my thoughts connect. There was nothing I'd said that hadn't been said before. Familiar, reverent stories looped endlessly to fill lulls in an intractable 24-hour news cycle.
She turned the paper over and asked one final question:
"How did you feel when you learned Osama Bin Laden had been killed."
I froze. The question took me by surprise. I sat there for a while and wondered in silence just what kind of response her teacher had expected to receive.
I hoped not elation. I hope no one felt that.
"Honestly, I didn't feel anything. I felt numb. There was no relief, no sense of closure, just reminders that we were still waging war In two countries, killing innocents as well as insurgents, and the man most wanted had always been somewhere else.
"How does this end?
"Hopefully not by building walls and bluster.
"It seems all we want is war. All we seek is conflict.
"Somehow we lost our way between there and here. Maybe we had little choice, but we have changed. And not for the better."
I stopped rambling, and she stopped writing.
"Do you have enough?"
She nodded and started to read back the transcript of our chat: "She felt numb. ..."