There are two mornings I will never forget. Both happen to be Tuesdays, but they occurred nearly 10 years apart and on two different continents.
The first was a clear blue Tuesday morning in central New Jersey. I was sitting in my eighth grade American Civics class at a small private school when my teacher stopped speaking midsentence. The quizzical look on his face as he stared out the windows of our first floor classroom caused my dozen classmates and me to turn in our seats. Outside, we could see the school's headmaster, a tall, thin middle-aged man, sprinting across the quad from the administration building. "Everyone must report to the chapel immediately," the headmaster said as he threw open our classroom door. "Don't worry about finding your assigned seats. Just go."
A few days later, I sat in the same classroom with the same teacher, but everything else about the world was different. He handed out sheets of lined paper and while choking back tears instructed us to write down exactly where we were, who we were with, and what we had felt when we had learned about the 9/11 terror attacks. Scared. Shocked. Lost.
Fast forward to a Tuesday morning, nine years and eight months later. I awoke in my apartment in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and booted up my laptop. I was 23-years-old and procrastinating packing a years worth of belongings to move back to the United States in two days. I logged into my Facebook and a dozen or so "Congratulations Tracey! You must feel so proud for your country today!" messages popped up on my wall from my non-American graduate school friends. What the hell is going on? I asked and clicked on my NewYorkTimes.com bookmark.
In the days that followed the killing of Osama Bin Laden, I remembered how the 13-year-old version of myself felt as I stood terrified in my school's administration building listening to my mother choke back tears as she said, "yes, dad is going to be fine … he wasn't working downtown today …please don't worry," even though she had had no contact with him since before the first plane had hit.
With Bin Laden's death, I could only think, "it's over. It's over." as tears streamed down my face.
Coming from an extremely liberal academic discipline, it wasn't surprising to me to read the posts of some of my friends, former classmates, and former professors on Facebook condemning the actions of those who had flooded the streets of New York and Washington D.C. to celebrate Bin Laden's death. "How could you celebrate death — anyone's death?" "How could you celebrate the actions of the 'military industrial complex'?" and, "This is nationalism at its finest!"
I chose not to react to Bin Laden's death via social media simply because at the time I didn't know how to articulate the way I felt in writing. How could I articulate the relief and closure I felt in a wall post?
I also didn't have the emotional energy to get into a public debate with one of my armchair radical Facebook friends who had not felt personally affected by 9/11. My father and one of my uncles worked on the Ground Zero recovery and clean up project. I had numerous friends who lost a parent or other family member on 9/11. I could see the smoke rising from Lower Manhattan into the sky from the windows of my classrooms for days. I can still hear the sound of my mother's voice crack as she tried to reassure me that my father would be OK.
A retired member of the FDNY recently told me, "I lost brothers and sisters on 9/11. You lost your childhood."
After the capture of one of the suspects accused of Monday's Marathon bombing was made public last night, I saw similar reactions on social media from friends, former classmates, and former professors condemning the spontaneously celebrations and chants of "One Boston!" that erupted throughout Watertown and the rest of the city.
Like I will always remember where I was on the mornings of 9/11 and May 3, 2011, the people of Boston will always remember where they were when they learned of the Marathon bombings and when they heard that the days-long search for those accused was finally over.
We all gain closure from trauma and tragedy in numerous, complicated ways. To condemn visceral (and largely peaceful) responses to the capture of one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects is to dismiss very real feelings of fear, confusion, shock, horror, and relief. If you don't feel that you have been personally affected by the events of this past week that is fine, but please be mindful of those who have been and are still processing the very raw experience they have just had.