LESLIE CRISS: Certain dates burned forever into memories

Leslie Criss“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.”
Gail Caldwell

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are 6 or 7 or 8
“To hate all the people your relatives hate, you’ve got to be carefully taught.”
Oscar Hammerstein II

I’m not very good at dates. Remembering them, that is. I try not to forget birthdays. But sometimes I do.

There are, however, a few dates I’ve been unable to forget no matter how much time passes.

I remember one Friday afternoon in 1963. November 22.

Mrs. Hammond, my first-grade teacher, tearfully told a room full of worried kids our president had been shot and killed.

On a sunny spring Wednesday morning in 1995 – April 19 – I huddled with my co-workers around the television in The Vicksburg Post newsroom and watched the unfolding aftermath of the bombing of the nine-story Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Lives lost – 168.

My heart broke in a new and different way just before noon on a Monday in 2011. November 7. My sweet mama took her last breath after a brave battle with Alzheimer’s and a brain tumor.

Most mornings I wake up and immediately turn to the “Today” show just to see what sort of news is going to start the day.

For some reason, I didn’t turn on the TV on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

Soon after I woke up, my phone rang. It was my friend Ross Reily who’d been visiting his now-wife Sarah in New York City. He was scheduled to fly back to Tupelo that morning.

“I just wanted to let you know I’m OK.” His voice seemed somehow different.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I told him.

“Turn on the television,” he told me, and hung up.

I turned on the television just about the time the second plane flew into the second of the Twin Towers.

Two towers in New York City, a part of the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

Lives lost – nearly 3,000.

All because of hate.

But from all these remembered events, these tragedies – and so many others – there are moments of grace.

Strangers helping strangers, friends helping friends.

Certainly, as long as there is grace and goodness, there is hope.

But we will not forget.

“Remember the hours after Sept. 11 when we came together as one to answer the attack against our homeland. We drew strength when our firefighters ran upstairs and risked their lives so others might live; when rescuers rushed into smoke and fire at the Pentagon; when the men and women of Flight 93 sacrificed themselves to save our nation’s Capitol; when flags were hanging from front porches all across America, and strangers became friends. It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.”
Sen. John Kerry

leslie.criss@journalinc.com