9/11 at 20

“Where were you when…?”

There are a number of moments throughout history that seem to mark the time for generations. They’re the moments that are seared into our minds. We’ll never forget where we were or what we were doing or who we were with when we heard or saw the tragic news. Those who are much older than me can remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Personally, I remember watching from a classroom as the Challenger space shuttle exploded only seconds after lift off.

And I was a senior in college when the Twin Towers fell.

It was a Tuesday morning and I had a 9:00 class I wasn’t ready to wake up for. I mean, when was anyone ready to wake up for a morning class on a weekday?

During the fall semester of that year, I shared a room with three of my friends: Mark, Brandon, and Derek. At the start of the school year, we decided to do something clever with our rooms. Technically, Mark and Brandon were roommates while Derek and I were roommates. But instead of having two separate rooms with a bathroom between us, we moved all the beds into one of the rooms and turned the other into a living room. It was pretty awesome.

I honestly can’t remember who was the first one up that morning. I only know it wasn’t me. Whoever it was called dibs on the shower. This was fine with me as I intended to sleep as late as I could before rushing to get ready for class.

Somewhere in that zone where you’re not fully awake but not quite asleep, I could hear the shower running and the radio in the bathroom playing. And that’s when I heard the report that a low flying plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Hearing that news come from the radio in the bathroom was enough to get me out of bed. I turned on the small TV we had in the bedroom and saw the image of smoke and fire pouring out of the North Tower. There was talk of it being a tragic accident. But as I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder if it had been planned.

When we watched the second plane collide with the South Tower in real time, all doubt was erased. This was a blatant attack on the United States.

It was difficult to find the motivation to go to class after that. But I got dressed and grabbed my books and headed out of the dorm anyway. On my way to my World Religions class, I ran into another friend and former roommate, Dave. We both had somber expressions on our faces. I’m not sure which of us suggested it first, but we made the decision to blow off class and return to my room to continue watching the news unfold.

Most of the rest of that morning was spent in our awesome living room watching CNN. We were watching when reports came that another aircraft had crashed into the Pentagon. We were watching when a fourth plane seemed to randomly crash in a field in Pennsylvania.

We didn’t take a break from watching the news until lunchtime. I remember the cafeteria being uncharacteristically quiet that day. Someone had decided to move the big screen television from the Student Activities Center over to the dining hall so we could all stay up to date while we had our lunch.

I remember some teachers deciding to cancel their classes while others wanted to carry on in spite of the attacks. In part, I understand that desire to keep on going… These attacks were designed to tear America down… to bring us to a halt. I guess by not going to class or by canceling our day we were giving the terrorists what they wanted.

The rest of that day is mostly a blur. I know we continued watching the news, though I’m not sure why. Was it a morbid fascination? Were we hoping to hear some good news that could counter all that bad we had already seen?

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years.

I’ll say this about the nation we were 20 years ago… America rallied. And maybe I’m looking back through a lens of nostalgia and hope… but I’m certain that we came together as a people to comfort those who suffered loss and to support those who risked everything by running toward the disaster to help rather than run away.

If 9/11 happened today, how would the American people respond? Would we find ways to come together once more or would we continue to allow our petty differences and polarizing opinions divide us? I pray we never have to find out.

5 thoughts on “9/11 at 20

  1. I remember JFK, like it was yesterday, and all the other major moments, both good and bad, since then. Shock and sorrow for our neighbor about covers it, especially for 9/11. We were glued to the TV for the rest of the day, and even days after that. Some of us are glued to the TV once again, praying for courageous people to rise up above petty differences and take back ‘the city’. The attack is more insidious this time since a frontal attack failed last time. A house divided will surely fall. There is evidence, there are wise and courageous people out there, I’m praying for more wisdom and courage that spreads quickly. We have skin in this game. We are your closely tied allies/neighbors. Praying for cool heads as we think about 9/11.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was 18 and was taking classes at my local community college. I didn’t have class until 11 so I decided to sleep in. My mom called shortly before 9, telling me to turn on the TV. As soon as I did, I watched the second plane slam into the South Tower. I was….scared…horrified…who hated us this much?

    I went to class but the professor decided to dismiss us because there was no way he was going to teach when our nation was under attack.

    No matter how many years pass, I’ll always remember where I was and what I was doing.

    God Bless the USA!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was 6 years old at the time. I honestly have no memory of it. Some of my friends remember it, but I never payed attention to world events when I was a kid. All my mom told me was that I asked what was going on. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a repressed memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Of all the remembers I have starts decades ago.
    When ever the name Kennedy comes up, I immediately think of JFK’s assassination, then the killing of Bobby Kennedy as he was campaigning for president. Then there was the scandal with Ted Kennedy and the coverup of the woman that died in his car that ended up in Chappaquiddick.
    The Kennedy Family was like Royalty in America.
    Then there was 911 that seemed to bring us back by Uniting us as one ! But today we are all divided again. May God Bless Us All.

    Liked by 1 person

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