Most of us in America have lived through a few defining moments that shape our view of the world. Some of these, like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the moon landing were harbingers of hope, and we met those occasions with great excitement. Unfortunately some of these defining moments come in startling and deeply saddening events like the assassination of JFK and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. We know exactly where we were and what we were doing when these life-altering events unfolded.
The attacks on September 11, 2001 forever changed us as a nation and as individuals in our daily lives. I want to share my memories of that day as I commemorate the lives of the victims and the heroes of 9/11.
I remember that I was on my way to my Tuesday set of college courses, and the day began normally. A quick breakfast, and out the door with my textbooks. We were listening to some morning show on the radio, and a report of the first plane striking the North tower came across the air. It was a sad idea that this had happened and at first I thought it was simply a tragic navigational error. I walked into my classroom, thinking that despite the circumstance, my day would be largely unaffected. The instructor had turned the television to one of the major networks, and we watched as the remaining students filed in for class. As we watched, we were horrified to view the second plane smash into the second tower. In an instant I knew this was no accident. This was further reinforced as I heard of the attack on the Pentagon and the brave passengers that brought Flight 93 into a Pennsylvania field.
I was shocked. Angry. Violated.
I felt a profound sadness for those whose lives were taken in the attacks. The fact that this well-coordinated attack had succeeded raised questions in my mind as to how we could prevent additional attacks in the future. I realized the stark contrast between 9/10 when I believed we were impervious, and the palpable exposure I felt that my homeland could be so injured.
After the initial shock had set in, the universal connection that drove the relief efforts, also stoked the fire of my patriotism. I was proud as ever to be an American.
I tend to play the anthropologist on many occasions, watching and evaluating the world around me. I found it fascinating that the Sunday following 9/11, one of the men in my church was telling crude jokes as a way to vent his anger toward the parties that support flying planes in to buildings. His usual worshipful demeanor had given way to base impulse. The events of 9/11 had indeed changed my life forever.