Growing up, South Carolina was a huge part of my family life. My mom grew up there and basically all of her family still lived there after she moved away. We had season tickets to watch the University of South Carolina football team. When we were younger, we went to every home game and a good amount of the away games. I could practically do that drive with my eyes closed by the time I was 12. I'd say we went to Columbia, South Carolina at least 10-15 times a year. That's a lot.
There was also a part of South Carolina we looked forward to every year. We would count down to it. We would talk about it for weeks and the entire 3.5 hour long drive up there. There's just something about it. Some sort of magic behind it.
The state fair.
If it wasn't the rides, it was the food, or the exhibits, or the people watching. We loved going to the fair when we were younger. My brothers and I would ride as many rides as we could, the ones we were tall enough for anyway. We would eat all the food our stomachs could hold. My personal favorite were the vinegar fries and the elephant ears. My mouth is still watering.
Slowly, we all got busier and we stopped going to the fair as much. I missed it a lot, especially after my grandfather passed away. We all had some special memories from the fair.
Well, this weekend, we went back! My parents met me, my middle brother, and his wife in South Carolina again. We all went to the fair to relive old times. The food was the same. The rides were the same. The smells were the same.
But this year, something was different. There was a new exhibit. The "Traveling World Trade Memorial" made its way to the state fair. I was taken aback when I saw it. Right there between the funnel cakes and the cotton candy what this glimmer of the past that took my breath away. We walked right by the tent and made our way to get some pronto pups (a glorified version of corn dogs) and no one seemed to pay it any attention. Except for me and my dad.
As we sat and ate our "dinner", we talked about what we wanted to do next. I wanted to go see the memorial. Everyone else blew it off. Except for my daddy. "You know," he told everyone, "that is the reason her future husband does what he does. If she wants to go see it, we should." My brother and his wife decided to do something else, but Daddy was adamant about going with me.
In the memorial, there were pictures of those we lost. Even posters of the missing the families put up right after the attacks. There were videos streaming from that day. Videos of the planes hitting, the towers falling, the people running for their lives. I think the most interesting part of the memorial was the things they found in the debris: a keyboard, a destroyed pay phone, smashed police car doors, parts of the plane. The actual plane that hit the towers. I think that was most shocking of it all.
It was a very odd feeling being in there, seeing all this stuff ten years later. Ten years and you could still feel the emotion; still feel the pain. There was a father behind me with two kids, probably in late elementary school. He was explaining everything to them. "This started the fighting," he told them. It gave me chills. This is why we are fighting. Right here in front of me. This started it all, and I'm looking at it. This realization sat heavy in my chest.
I'm glad we went. I'm glad I got to see all of this with my own eyes. I'm glad my parents were with me. They knew how important it was to me to go there. It was good to have support with me as I experienced that.
And my daddy? He held my hand the whole time.
I love that man.