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“A train hit the World Trade Center”….
On September 11th, 2001, those were the first words I heard that indicated something was wrong.
As you’ll notice right away, this particular blog entry isn’t beginning with my usual double-entendre title. This will be one of those rare occasions where nothing humorous will be found here. This is merely a solemn reflection on a day that means many different things to many different people. For whatever it’s worth, here’s what it means to me.
When I was 13, and towards the end of my second period class, a kid had said that he heard on the radio that a train had crashed into the World Trade Center. We all laughed, thinking that he had either misheard the news report or that it was some kind of prank. News had been buzzing that something weird was going on at the World Trade Center, though, so our teacher was nice enough to turn on the TV for the last five minutes of class so we could watch the news.
We figured out two things very quickly. First, that while this kid thought he heard the word “train,” he had obviously heard the word “plane.” Secondly, about two minutes before we had turned on the TV, the second plane had just hit the towers. Another kid next to me said, “Both of the towers, fifteen minutes in between? I think that’s terrorism.” Without missing a beat, I said, “No way. There’s no way any terrorist would be stupid enough to attack us.”
Next period, it was still business as usual, but there was a noticeable air of uneasiness. None of my peers or, for that matter, my math teacher, were very invested in our work.
Then, at the beginning of the next period, a plane hit the Pentagon. If there was an air of uneasiness and a lack of investment in our work before, it had now been doubled. Perhaps even transformed into an air of fear and a complete absence of investment in our work. Our science teacher noticed it, and attempted to calm us down by announcing that she was cancelling our homework for that night. Still, the room was pretty much silent with fear and confusion.
I finally spoke up and softly asked, “…Could we watch the news, maybe?” My peers all simultaneously said, “Yeah,” with suppressed urgency. This particular teacher, while a nice lady by any stretch of the imagination, was normally very work-oriented. There was no time for anything other than our assignments under normal circumstances. But this one time, she relented and turned on the TV. To her credit, she relented pretty quickly, as I’m sure she probably wanted to hear an update herself.
I didn’t see the towers fall. When she turned on the TV, we learned that they had already fallen fifteen minutes earlier.
For the rest of that school day, none of the teachers even attempted anything work-related. They didn’t care, we didn’t care, we knew that they didn’t care, and they knew that we didn’t care. Our nation was under attack. “This is the biggest thing since Pearl Harbor,” was what my math teacher said. We just went from class to class to watch the same tragic news on a different TV and in a different room.
The moment it really hit me, though, was when President Bush all but stated later that night that we were going to war. That was huge for a kid like me. A big part of my innocence was shattered that day because I thought wars were a thing of the past. I thought the Gulf War was the last war the U.S. would ever have to go through. All nations got along now, didn’t they? The cold war’s over, isn’t it? Nobody would dare attack the impenetrable fortress that is the United States, right?
To call it a sad day was an understatement, but to a kid like me, it was a huge reminder that, in fact, people still don’t get along. Like I said, a sort of an end to my innocent view on the world.
Here we are 10 years from now. What does it mean to 23-year-old Dave, recently out of college and ready to go out into this world that doesn’t totally get along? Well…the prospect is a bit nerve-wrecking, but, ya know what? I’m not completely scared.
Because looking back on it, 9/11 was just as much a reminder that people don’t get along as it was a reminder that people, in fact, do get along.
On 9/11, so many people set aside their differences to help one another. From the monumental efforts shown by the New York firefighters, to the smaller efforts shown by every-day people…every-day people who, in the case of United 93, prevented another attack. I’m amazed at all the stories I’ve heard of the heroic people on 9/11.
So here’s what it means to me as an adult. 9/11 was a very strange day in the sense that we saw both the worst and the best that humanity had to offer. The way I see it, though, we get more than enough examples on the news of humanity’s violent nature…after all, news corporations will tell you that the stories that sell are the ones of controversy and tragedy.
…So take a moment to forget all that. Forget all the wars, forget all of the international disputes, forget any of the bad day-to-day stuff you may be involved in…and take a moment to remember that, as evidenced on 9/11, the human race is capable of selfless acts of kindness.