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The Girl in the 9/11 Bubble

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Emma has two classes on September 11, but she expects that after European history, she’ll go back to her dorm and catch some of the reading of the names on television. “Sometimes there are people from camp on it.”

On campus that first day, I ask Emma if she believes in closure. “People here may believe in it,” she says. “But at home it was like, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ And at camp, there’s no need to have our grieving end. It’s what we go through. They just let us be who we want to be.”

I ask her how she’ll feel when college professors raise the subject of 9/11, or if fellow students start blaming America for the attack. “I know it’s going to be hard,” she says. “Obviously, I’m going to learn stuff I don’t want to learn. I mean, I’m not going to take any classes that are going to provoke it. And I’m not going to participate; I don’t want to. In a psychiatry class, you may have to share your story, and I’m perfectly willing to do that.” Emma says she’d like to major in child psychology. “I just don’t want to hear political aspects or other aspects or the day gone over 80 times.”

Then Emma tells me a story. For the past five years, on the 9/11 anniversary, she, her mother, and her brothers have taken a walk they used to take with their father to a place near Mountain Lakes called Tripod Rock. “My mother used to not let us sit under it,” Emma says, “in case, for some odd reason, the rock decided to fall after hundreds of years. We have a picture of us all sitting under it with my dad, saying, ‘Yeah! We made it under the rock!’”

That story makes her think of another one. Once, when she and her family were traveling in England, they took a walk and found themselves approaching a cliff. “My dad would always be the one who walked along the edge, and my mom and I would always be, ‘Get away! You’re going to fall! Don’t do it!’ And he’d be laughing, because he thought it was so hysterical that we were scared.”

She is smiling now, thinking of her father.

“I do wish I’d spent more time with him. He’d always be like, ‘You always hang out with your friends. Why don’t you stay at home?’”

Then, just as quickly, the smile vanishes.

“But I was a teenage girl,” she says.


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