I realize that today practically every blogger in America is commenting on the anniversary of 9-11. (My mother dislikes when I call it September 11, because technically September 11 is simply a calendar date that occurs each year). But maybe it takes remembering a polarizing moment like this for each of us to evaluate where our lives have gone in the last nine years.
On September 10, 2001 I was just beginning my freshman year at Eastern University. I ran into an old high school classmate on campus. He wasn’t a student at Eastern. He had graduated from high school a few weeks early and joined the Marine Corps. He hadn’t even attending our graduation ceremony. I found out months later that after the events of 9-11 he was transferred to Hawaii where he got married and started a family. At the time, I think he was angry that he wasn’t being sent to Afghanistan.
On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was sitting in my Applied Journalism class. We were just arriving when one student said he’d gotten a phone call from his mother about a plane hitting the world trade center. The teacher dismissed us to see if the event would be of any journalistic value. We headed for the student lounge, which had the nearest television. I remember the glazed expressions of awe; the horror wouldn’t come until later. I remember a student worker announcing that classes had been canceled. That was before the towers even fell. I saw the first tower fall, live. Not the replay, the live footage. I felt like I was watching a play. I stood for a long time watching the coverage until there was no more new information to be had, just the same horrifying images being shown over and over.
Then the rush to contact loved ones began. Cell phone signals were impossible to get. Even the campus phone system was jammed. There was a message written on the white board on my dorm room door. My boyfriend had called. He was OK. My roommate had told him we were OK too. My campus was just outside Philadelphia. I think we were all afraid that it was some sort of concentrated attack on every major city on the East Coast. We kept waiting for Philadelphia and Boston to be next.
We mostly sat in shock and wandered from one TV to the next, congregating in hallways and lounges. No one wanted to be alone. I grabbed the last seat on a van driving students to give blood at a local Catholic church. I sat next to a boy I had met just two weeks before, but I felt as though we’d been friends longer. After standing in line for two hours we were sent back to campus. The facility was too full, not enough needles or blood bags. It was just as well. I was terrified of needles and had never given blood in my whole life. I still haven’t. That night my boyfriend called again and told me he loved me for the first time.
Nine year’s later I am married to the man who said he loved me in the midst of what will likely be remembered as the worst tragedy in our lifetimes. We have been married for more than seven years and have a fifteen month old daughter. I wish I could forget the horrors of that day. The paralyzing fear has faded, but the anger hasn’t. Not so much the anger at those who flew the planes or those who supported them, but the way Americans forget so easily. We all stood together for a day, it may have lasted a year. Now most people are more interested in the opening season episode of their favorite TV show or complaining about the economy. My daughter is an inspiration to me. If I want her to grow up with the same freedoms that I did, then I need to support those who keep us free. We civilians may have forgotten what 9-11 meant, but those in our military haven’t. I have the utmost respect for anyone who chooses to join the armed forces. It takes a huge sacrifice. I have friends who went to Iraq and Afghanistan. Many were changed after they came back, some for the better some for the worse. But regardless, I look at my daughter and know that their service assures her future freedoms. Now if only we could elect some politicians who understand that too.