As the interview with John and Alice Sheldon, brother-in-law and sister of fallen 9/11 hero, Paul Jurgens, was coming to a close, John answered an audience member’s question about finding closure and his words really resonated with me. “Closure is an overused word,” he said and I thought to myself, he is so right.
But before my experience with the Sheldons, I probably wouldn’t have felt such a strong connection to these words.
Being only 10 at the time of the 9/11 attacks, living in a suburb outside of Houston, I had no immediate personal connection. Nor was my young mind able to comprehend, analyze or fully understand the severity and enormity of it all.
In the years following 9/11, I watched news coverage, rocked a “United We Stand” T-shirt, read the heart-wrenching stories of children and spouses in “People Magazine”, sang along when “I’m proud to be an American” came on the radio, watched all the 20/20 and Dateline specials and rejoiced with the rest of America when Osama Bin Laden was brought down.
But I also complained about the amped up, invasive and tedious airport security, half-heartedly mumbled the pledge of allegiance before football games and admittedly as the years went on, went through my day to day life without thinking about 9/11, those we lost or their loved ones.
For me, life went on as usual for the most part and that was my closure. But sitting there listening to John and Alice’s story, I realized that there is no closure for the victims of 9/11. John’s words, “closure is an overused word,” keep replaying in my mind.
It’s been 11 years. In those 11 years I scraped through the awkward middle school years, went to my first dance, got my driver’s license, travelled to other countries, graduated from high school, fell in love, attended two colleges, fell out of love, watched my musical idol perform live on stage, made enemies and friends, watched countless hours of television, purchased an iPhone, rented my own apartment ….
Point is: my life went on, but after that day the lives of 2,977 victims did not. And, for some time, neither did the lives of their family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances.
Until my own personal interactions with the Sheldons, I often lumped the nearly 3,000 victims together. As a whole, it sounds like such a large and horrifying number. But when you think about each of those 2,977 people as individuals, take into account their families, loved ones, co-workers, friends — all the people they touched in some way — and consider the impact that just that one death had, it’s almost unbearable to think about.
The word “closure” is often thrown around as if it is universal. But each of these situations is different. I read plenty of personal stories following 9/11, but not until now did I realize just how personal they were.
As a large group, I mourned for the victims, but now I mourn for John and Alice Sheldon and their family as they go on living and truly honoring the legacy of Paul Jurgens. I also have a new appreciation and understanding of the personal impact of this tragedy rather than just the overarching national one.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have met the Sheldons and truly believe that Trinity has done a wonderful thing in fostering Jurgens — I hope she goes on to make her namesake, Paul Jurgens, proud.
Megan Julian is a senior majoring in communication. She is also the managing editor of The Trinitonian.