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A reflection on a personal loss of Sept. 11

On a day that will be filled with political analysis and theoretical musings, I would like to offer a different perspective on the events of Sept. 11. My perspective is not justified by years of political research or a deep understanding of Middle Eastern policy. It is a personal story, and I promise nothing more. However, I feel that it's essential to understanding the most important result of Sept. 11: the lives it took and those it changed forever.

I've been blessed with a large, loud, happy Greek family. Holidays are filled with exciting chaos, like a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding with less ethnicity and more New Jersey. And in this tumult of cousins, aunts, great uncles and old people I don't know but kiss anyway, there was always a core, a magnetic force that drew us together. There was my Aunt Daphne or, as we lovingly called her, Saza.

We've called her "Saza" ever since my oldest cousin made it up 25 years ago. One word embodies her: her joyful laugh, glittering eyes, glowing love. They say the Greeks have a name for it, and Saza was ours.

From my earliest memories, Saza was an integral part of my life. Though she lived six hours away, she was always there for ballet recitals, proms and birthdays. She was a second mother with benefits. What made Saza special was that every morsel of her love was not a love by default, but a true dedication and sincere outpouring. Without children or a husband of her own, she gave her whole heart to her nieces and nephews.

A year ago, I was in Paris when my friend received a call: a 747 crashed into the World Trade Center. "Oh my god," I thought, "My aunt works there!" As I stood in a television store, surrounded by images of the towers collapsing, my perfect world came down with it. The rest of the day is a blur of tears, crying-induced headaches and shock. A year later, I still have days like this.

Each day is a pang of hurt, varying in degree. When I walked into her house a month later, it really hit me. A freeze frame was left of her last unsuspecting day: an open bottle of seltzer by the bed, clothes she had bought to wear on her trip to visit me in Paris hanging on her door, tags still attached. It was glaring how quickly and abruptly she was plucked from the world, out of my life.

I don't know if it's futile to try to capture her in one column, or in words at all. It may not matter either way. The fact is that she is no longer there to laugh with late at night. She will never know my husband or my kids, and they will never know her. And I will try in desperate attempts, such as here, to capture her essence. And, just as now, I will feel like I have not done her justice.

As the country looks back critically on Sept. 11, some of us are not, and never will be, at that analytical stage. We have questions without answers. We walk a tight line between the numbness of shock and feeling the pain too much. Mostly, we drown in the poignant memories of loved ones who perished.

I fear that Sept. 11 will only live on as an infamous date represented by American flag bumper stickers, not by names or faces. I fear that only an abstract concept will remain, detaching the event from the horror caused. Here is my last attempt to share Saza, a name to put with the day. Days before Christmas, my mom gave my sister and me identical gifts. "I found these at Saza's." With tears streaming down my face, I recalled the tradition for Saza to give us a small gift each year. This year she'd bought them three months in advance. That's just the type of Saza she was.

Kassia Miller is a Trinity senior.


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