This past weekend we took a little afternoon trip to…the Texas State Cemetery. Because we are super fun people like that.
Actually, it was for an article I was writing on Free Fun in Austin. I needed to check it out, take some photos, basically so I could fake being an expert on it. It’s what we writers do.
The girls scampered in the grass that was NOT filled with the graves of war heroes and famous Texans. We paused at the ponds, looking for fish. It was a hot day, but the beautiful cemetery was mostly shaded. The atmosphere exuded peace and serenity, like cemeteries always know to do.
I saw the structure out of my peripheral a few times as we roamed the grounds. A trio of seniors – the citizens, not the students – paused at it and caught my attention, and that’s when I finally realized what I had been doing large circles around all this time: a 9/11 Memorial that I didn’t even know was here.
I had done a little research on the cemetery. I knew whose graves I wanted to find, but I didn’t even know this existed. I decided to make it my last stop after completing my morbid headstone checklist.
History stood here. I walked around the beams and touched the twisted metal that was hot from the sun, not hot from raging fires. What once was a mess of wreckage was now a magnificent memorial to lives lost.
I sank into one of the granite benches built into the surround. And I cried. I cried for the lives lost, for the terror and the trauma, and for the devastation that the salvaged beams represented. I thought about the images I had seen on the news: thousands of missing persons signs that covered every wall, window, and lamppost in Manhattan near Ground Zero afterwards; and a silly piece about a couple who went to reclaim their belongings that had been in WTC safe deposit boxes. Thousands of lives lost, and the wife was disappointed that her pearls had become mishapen.
I wondered when in the future this day would move from a day of remembrance to something that just happened.
I sat and I sobbed, and I was grateful that Christian had taken the hot, tired, and cranky children back to the entrance for some shade. My tears mixed with the sweat that was running down my face, because it’s still damn hot here in September.
And then I collected myself and walked over to meet my family. I sat down on a bench next to my husband, my big sunglasses masking my red, puffy eyes. The kids would freak if they saw me crying.