Today is 9/11. This morning, I was absorbed with taking Miss K. to her first day of her new school. On the way to school, I saw the flag at half mast. I got to about “I wonder why…” and then Miss K. said something and distracted me. Then on the way back, I saw a parade of classic cars all driving with flags out their windows down the major street in our town. It took me about 6 cars in before I remembered that it was 9/11. This saddens me. I worry that maybe I’m forgetting this momentous day in our nation’s history. In the ten years following the attacks on the WTC, I always felt anxious that something horrible would happen on this day again and I vividly remembered the details of that day and those that followed. I found myself stopping and observing a moment for the heroes and victims of that day. But the impact seems to be slowing down for me. As they say, time heals all wounds. So I’m going to write it down in the slim case that my memory starts to fail me in the future.
In 2001, I was in my first year of MBA school in Tucson, Arizona. My alarm was set to the radio, as it always was but instead of music or the usual lame DJ banter, there was a serious tone. A plane had flown into the one of the WTC buildings in New York. This had to be an accident, right? I flipped on the tv just as the reporter on the tv started yelling “the second tower has been hit!” and all the sudden the reality of it hit. This was intentional. Some lunatics were flying airplanes into buildings. I had never been exposed to this type of insanity. It took me a minute to grasp what was going on. There were people in the building. And in the planes. And on the street nearby.
I, like everyone else, found myself sucked into the television for a while. Then it was too much. There were no answers, just horror. So I turned it off. I had to go to school. I drove and listened to the radio. I parked the car and walked to my building. I usually smile at people who pass by. That day I couldn’t. It felt wrong and after doing it once out of habit, I felt guilty for it. I spoke to my now husband. I remember him saying “this is fucking crazy.” and it was. Then I heard about the pentagon. And the other plane that had been flown into the ground in Pennsylvania. I drove home and saw some kids. I cried. I saw a police officer. I cried. I saw a flag waving. I cried.
Over the following days, the information was all over the place. I remember hearing that it could be up to 10,000 deaths based on the number of people in the buildings and in the planes. Thankfully the number was about 1/3 of that but it didn’t make the experience any less horrific. We were shaken and scared. I was unable to watch too much television for a while. The deaths of the heroes, the innocents, the guilty wouldn’t leave my mind. I found myself reading stories about these people and their families. I was changed. I was taught that there is true evil in the world and even our big, bad ass government can’t protect us.
People didn’t know what to think or do. Planes were grounded for a while. People were scared. I had some classmates from India who had the FBI visit them because they were brown and listened to strange, foreign music. Not necessarily racist; people were just scared. My husband traveled for work often. His ID was checked and double checked and he was questioned about why he was traveling. It certainly felt as though it was because he was brown. We had random luggage checks at the airport. Everything was different. I also hope to never forget how people banded together at that time. We were Americans. Not just cohabiting the same country but we were going through this tragedy together.
It was unlike anything I’ve experienced. Recalling it now, I don’t think I will ever forget. I don’t think I can.