Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never forgetting

I was driving home from work yesterday and for some reason I started thinking about the fact that the next day was September 11.  Probably no American who was old enough to know what was going on will ever forget where they were when they learned about the planes hitting the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  But what I was thinking about were the kids who have grown up completely post-9/11.   As of today, any kid who's younger than 9 years old has lived exclusively in a post-9/11 world.

If I have kids, someday they're going to ask me if I remember where I was when the planes hit the towers, just like I asked my parents where they were when Kennedy was shot.

I was asleep, actually.  And then I woke up, and everything had changed, only we didn't know yet how everything had changed.  That would come later.

But I was asleep.  I was in my dorm room at Indiana University.  It was my sophomore year of college and I shared a room with my best friend.  I woke up to the phone ringing.  Of course, it was across the room on its charger, so I frantically hopped down from my top bunk to grab the phone.  My roommate was a notoriously light sleeper and I hated to wake her up if I could help it.

I grabbed the phone and saw that it was my ex-boyfriend calling.  He told me to turn on the news.  I didn't want to turn on the TV because I didn't want to wake B, so I logged on to some online news sites.  I saw the pictures, but I honestly didn't know what a big deal it was.  Before that day, I didn't know what the World Trade Center was.  I didn't know it was in New York.  I probably thought, "Oh, that's too bad.  A plane accidentally hit a tower somewhere."

I gave up and turned on the TV, plugging in headphones in an attempt to keep from waking up my roommate.  We had a tiny little TV and it was on top of our tall dresser.  The headphone cords weren't very long, so I was standing up, in my pajamas, watching the news.  I can't remember at what point I tuned in, but I think it was just after the second plane hit the tower.

My roommate woke up.  What a thing to wake up to.

We turned on the news properly and we learned what had happened.  We saw the towers fall.  I wasn't in New York.  I was in Indiana.  I can't even imagine what it must have been like for the people in New York.  But everything changed for us that day, too.

Maybe I was naive, but hey, I was 19 years old.  Before 9/11, it was inconceivable that something like this could happen to us.  Suddenly, it had happened.  The United States had been attacked.  On our own soil.  And suddenly, anything was possible.

IU didn't cancel classes that day.  At the time, I was in two statistics classes and in my first class, our professor told us she didn't know how to deal with an event this catastrophic except to concentrate on mundane things like statistics.  So we did math.

Rumors flew wildly over campus that day.  Large universities were a target.  The bombs were coming for us next.  Looking back now, I can see that it was ridiculous.  But was it?  That's how everything changed on that day.  Suddenly, all things were possible.  Suddenly, we knew things like terror alert levels and jihad.  Suddenly, terrorists had flown planes into the World Trade Center.  On purpose.  To destroy them.  So, suddenly, it wasn't all that inconceivable that the bombs could be coming for us next.  It didn't make any sense, but none of this made any sense.

We were too numb, then, to even feel angry.  That would come later.  The anger and the how dare they.  But violence is no answer to violence.  Even then, I knew that.

After watching the news all day long, we couldn't take it any more.  B and I went down to a friend's dorm room and we watched some really stupid movie (I can't remember what movie we watched) just to take our minds away for a bit.  But it was too late.  Everything had changed.

Someday, if I have kids, they'll ask me where I was on 9/11.  And I'll tell them how everything changed.  Because none of us will ever forget.

And hey, go over to The Reading Zone and read Sarah's post.