I cried when Yao Ming retired. Not when the initial news came out in America, but when he announced it to the Chinese media. There was a scroll behind him that said, “Yao Ming, thanks, the end” and there were tears in his eyes when he went up to the podium.
There were tears in mine when I read his words, “I will be with you always.”
I’m tearing up now just thinking about it.
It’s not because he had any personal significance to me, I’m not a Houston Rockets fan and I’m not Chinese. It’s because his personal tragedy is one so easy to understand. A young athlete cut down in his prime over and over again until he’s forced out of the game. A national hero that became an international symbol forced to admit that he has done all that he can for his country in one respect. A broken man forced to give up on his dream.
These are things to cry about.
When I think about the events of September 11, 2001, I don’t cry. I went to Fort Belvoir Elementary School on the military base nearest to Washington DC. My step-dad worked across the street from the Pentagon. It was all too real back then but all I remember now is my friend Corey crying while the school sat in the gymnasium waiting for our parents to get us, and my mom taking the family out for Chinese food.
There is a very real chance that my step-dad could have died and there is a vey real tragedy in all the families that realized that “could have” as a truth, and my heart goes out to them.
I don’t think I can imagine the scale of the destruction of 9/11, despite my proximity to it, despite how many years it has been. For me to fully realize how tragic it actually was and is would be for me to understand that every person who lost their life in that tower was cut down in their prime. Every one of them has become a national symbol that has given up everything without a choice. Young or old, this is a person, who probably didn’t get a chance to get teary eyed on a podium facing their retirement from this world, let alone tell us their last words.
As a fourth grader that escaped me, and as a sophomore in college I still won’t pretend to understand what any of the families have gone through, let alone all of the rest of America.
Everyone deals with grief in his or her own way, and dealing with September 11th is a very personal thing, but for me it will be thinking about what each and every soul in those towers, on those planes, and in the pentagon would say as they walked up to the podium on the cusp of death, looking out upon their loved ones for the last time with tears in their eyes. I think one thing would finally come out of all of their mouths:
“I will be with you always.”