Rev Tara Porr Granados reflects on 20 years since 9/11

Rev Tara Porr Granados, who is the minister of Ibrox Parish Church and originally from Texas in the United States, reflects on 9/11 twenty years after it happened.

What do you remember from that September day twenty years ago? My teacher turned on our classroom TV to the news and my twelve-year-old eyes watched the second plane hit in real time. I remember adults around me sharing silent, worried looks. I had never seen adults be frightened before. I remember my mother keeping me in her sightline the rest of the day. I remember thinking this is the first bit of history that I’m living through.

After twenty years, as we look back at the stories told of that day, it feels like so much and not enough. As a society we process events slowly and non-linearly. I find it fascinating the stories we’ve retold and the ones we’ve withheld.

After 9/11 there was so much focus on celebrating the first responders’ bravery and on hunting down those responsible. Those stories gave us hope, a sense of reclaiming power and purpose. But there were so many more stories, other experiences, images, videos, and recordings that were too painful; that left us feeling helpless, powerless.

Someone holding a candle

Specifically, I remember the image of ‘The Falling Man’ published the day after the attacks. People were so horrified and traumatized by it that it disappeared from public view for years. It was too soon and we buried images and memories that were too close to the bone. But now I want to hear the rest of those stories. I want to remember it all.

I think time and distance are necessary to be able to look back with perspective without re-wounding ourselves. Holocaust survivors after World War II often took decades to disclose to their family that they had been in the camps. Remembering was too painful, too crippling. My father took years to be able to talk about his experience in Vietnam, not just the war, but also the sense of wasted life when Saigon fell. Scenes that we saw echoed in the final phase of America’s exit from Afghanistan last month. We often need distance to have ears to hear such stories.

As we integrate these new or repressed stories to our collective memory, may we hold those directly affected in prayer as we remember and grieve all that was lost that September day. 

Rev Tara Porr Granados

And so I hope that after two decades we can make space in our cultural dialogue for the memoirs, the movies, the documentaries, the songs, and the poetry that are still to come. The way we create meaning from memory matters. The way the world remembers 9/11 matters. We need each other’s stories to make sense of our own story. As we build a repertoire of memory we create a collective narrative that allows us to see the complexity of what happened that day in New York, but also what came before and after it, in ripples all around the world.

As we integrate these new or repressed stories to our collective memory, may we hold those directly affected in prayer as we remember and grieve all that was lost that September day.