Normally this blog is a refuge for me, and I hope for you. Food is comforting and whether I write about a recipe or facts about an ingredient, the troubles of the world generally do not intrude here. Still, I could not bring myself to put up a post with a Sept 11th date and simply act as if this day was ordinary.
Three days before Sept. 11, 2001, at a family celebration (my daughter’s bat mitzvah), our then 16-year-old son pointed out that his grandparents’ generation was defined by the WWII experience, his parents’ by the civil rights movement and Vietnam, and he asked rhetorically what would define his generation. In retrospect, the question has an answer that I wish it did not.
It amazes me that 13 years have passed. I look out my kitchen window now and see a crystal clear day, taking me back to the way the skies looked in New York City and Washington, DC on that day – until they were darkened by smoke and fire. I first heard of the tragedy on the news as I was preparing for a conference call. Needless to say, when the conference call occurred in the aftermath of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, the news played in the background and I was completely distracted, unable to think about work. If you’re 18 or older, you can probably remember that day. Where were you and how did you first hear of the events unfolding?
I am lucky not to have lost a family member or close friend on that day. So when I remember and think about how Sept 11th, 2001 changed me and what it means to me now, my thoughts do not go toward not personal grief. Instead, I think about the preciousness of life, how fleeting it is, and how I treasure my time with family and friends.
On a most personal level, I now recognize in a way that I hadn’t before September 11, 2011, how much it matters to tell people I care about how much I love them and to use food and meals as an expression of that love. When I sit down to dinner with family or friends, I try to focus on the people who have gathered. If a dish didn’t turn out as planned or a tablecloth wrinkled, I try to shrug it off. Maybe these changes seem small and my expression of them seems trite. But life is lived mostly one day at a time and in small interactions, not in momentous events.
As I stir food in a pot or bring a plate to the table, the meal ahead means more than simply eating. I’m not a big one for prayers before meals, but the concept of taking a moment to hold hands and be thankful doesn’t seem hokey anymore. And I am much more likely to join in on my husband’s favorite Jewish prayer, – the Shehecheyanu blessing, which thanks God for keeping us alive, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this day.