Reminders of an innocent time

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Juxtaposition is a good word to describe two things taking place this week.

In case you need a definition of juxtaposition (and I looked it up to be sure I was thinking of the right word), it is “the grouping or comparison of two dissimilar objects.”

Put another way — “the juxtaposition of two contrasting objects, images, or ideas is the fact they are placed together or described together, so the differences between them are emphasized.”

So, the first thing going is the celebration of homecoming at Andalusia High School. For me comments on Facebook and from friends with children who are taking part in the activities brought a flood of memories.

One person mentioned “the float site” and I was back in 8th grade fluffing Kleenex flowers we attached to a chicken wire frame that sat on top of a flatbed trailer. Back in the day, teachers let us make those flowers during class. (Probably doesn’t happen now that making good on those state tests is so important.)

There was so much excitement at the float site on the nights leading up to the big parade. Well, some of the excitement was seeing who (for girls this meant boys) was there working on the float. Or at least who was there to say they were working on the float (I’m not naming names, but some were into flirting more than working.)

What a wonderful innocent time that was in my life. I was on the edge of childhood, just dipping my foot into the teenage waters. The future held promise and the mystery of what growing up might be like.

Now, to the other event, the one juxtaposed with the homecoming celebration. This week is the 12th anniversary of 9/11. Remember when those numbers only meant it was the 11th day of the ninth month?

Today a journalist friend and I talked about where we were on the morning of Sept. 11, 2011. We remembered the shock we felt seeing the towers fall and the fear and uncertainty that was in the air for days after that tragic morning.

She mentioned a conversation she had with her publisher about how today’s media with the Internet and social sites might cover an event like 9/11. It was a reminder of how quickly the world and the way we live in the world changed.

Now, I sit here writing and reminiscing about two very different events, both times of change. The first is a sweet memory of an innocent time when my world felt safe, secure and the word terrorism was not in my vocabulary. I felt the anticipation of moving toward adulthood, anxious and excited to step out into the world that awaited me.

The second is the recollection of a day that made terrorism and terrorists a permanent part of the entire country’s vocabulary. After that morning, I felt uncertainty and a bit of anxiety about what might lie ahead.

So this week homecoming reminds me of innocence, of living in a place where my biggest concern was our float coming in first place. At the same time, 9/11 takes me back to a morning when I found myself in a place where innocence was gone, burned away with crashing planes and falling towers.

Juxtaposition – two contrasting objects, images, or ideas placed together to emphasize the differences between them.

Today, we remember those who died on that September morning 12 years ago. Friday we watch floats pass as AHS celebrates its homecoming with a parade.

I suppose we are less innocent than in the days of my youth, but we are still here, still listening to the band and waving at smiling homecoming queens. Perhaps that says a lot about the strength of the human spirit to move beyond tragedy and to embrace living.

And what could be a more fitting tribute to those we lost than to enjoy the celebration and to march ahead with hope.