Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

I was a junior in high school, sitting in my Advanced Placement English class - second row of seats, on the right side of the room. One of the teachers from a different classroom came in and told us to turn on the tv, but our teacher heard the panic in her voice and followed her back to her classroom without turning it on. I guess she didn't want us to see anything traumatic on the tv until she had a handle on the situation. One of my peers DID turn on the tv, and we watched news reports for a few minutes that basically said, "we don't really know what's going on, but a plane flew into one of the Twin Towers." They didn't even have any footage up yet. My first response was, "What's a Twin Tower?" I was very young when the first attack happened in the 90s and didn't remember it. Then I thought that it must have been an accident of some sort. But I knew that whatever happened, it was big enough to change the way we live forever.

My teacher came back in and told us exactly what we'd heard from the television, but I distinctly remember her saying things like, "we don't know the full situation yet, but there must be an explanation." Little were we prepared for that explanation. There was no schoolwork done that day, or the day after that. As the footage replayed on the tv, my thoughts turned to my aunt, who was due to give birth that day. My cousin was born on September 12th, 2001. The school officials deliberated as to whether the school should be closed, but they decided that getting us all home early would be a logistical nightmare. Probably 50% of the kids were checked out by there parents, though - or just left.

When I got home that day, my mom was fielding phone calls on whether or not the library should be closed (she was head of the board at the time). I think that speaks to just how panicked everyone was - a small library in central Florida felt threatened. But I guess that was the point: for everyone to feel unsafe, or perhaps rather to realize just how unsafe we've always been.

In a way, that day was a big part of my growing into adulthood. It made me realize that just because I live in America, that doesn't make me safe from the rest of the world. It began my disillusionment with the media, which only increased the panic of the American people by replaying the same disturbing footage over and over. Ultimately, I would decide not to pursue a career in the field as I had originally planned. I realized for the first time that I had no control over what tomorrow brings, and that made my faith grow stronger. Like many, I long to return to the days before 9-11, when there was much less cynicism of each other. But, like many, I am more grateful of what I have. I wish that day had never happened, but it did, and I think we did the best thing we could have: we kept going.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

What else can you do but keep going?

I'd been talking with a boss with the public radio station on in the office when we stopped and looked at each other.

"That can't be an accident," we both said after the report of the first plane, and stayed huddled around the radio for the next half hour.

It was a bad, bad day.