a personal essay on how 9/11 affected me
| The event that changed everything
The things I've lost...
A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. I didn't bother to click the link on my internet browser's homepage. Instead I turned on the television, looking for a news channel. (This was something I never did until that day). It wasn't hard to find, the image of the smoke pouring out of the side of the tower was hard to accept. I think, in my mind I tried to fit this into the same category as if it were a movie - like I was watching from the outside - shielded from the reality of it all. It wasn't until the second tower was hit that I realized this was no tragic accident.
My mind reeling, I picked up the phone to call my father. Mom answered, I abruptly asked if she knew what was going on - I don't remember how she answered. I asked if they knew where my brother was (a pilot for American Airlines). I was a little ashamed that I had no idea how to get in touch with him except through my parents. Dad called back a little later with news that my brother was safe. We spoke a little about how terrible this was and how hard this was going to be for the emergency responders (we were both firefighters) to deal with. I honestly think he knew what was coming but he kept it to himself - he reminded me to pray.
The rest of the morning was a blur; my wife was working, I don't remember if I spoke to her or not. My kids were in day-care/school - fortunately too young to understand what was happening. Damn, I didn't even understand what was happening. President Bush was in Sarasota visiting a school when the attack started, thirty miles from where we lived. I was afraid that an attack might occur here - especially after the attack on the Pentagon. I was relieved when I heard that Air Force One had left Sarasota.
I was sitting in my living room watching this event unfold when it happened. The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. I cried. I couldn't help but think of the firefighter's (and all responders) that had rushed into that building to try to save those that they could. Hundreds of lives taken, families shattered, lives irrevocably changed.
Now in reflection, I realize that millions of lives were changed in that moment. In the days and months that followed the attacks were we told to mourn our loss but not let it change the way that Americans live - don't let the terrorists see that they have terrorized us.
Before this event, I had never worried for anything. I was forty years old, married and raising three wonderful children. There were challenges every day but I knew that we would make it through. I had faith in God, my world, and my country. Now I only have faith in God ... and I am ashamed to admit - even that faith has been rocky.
Twelve years after 9/11, I am afraid of this world - I lack the trust that I grew up with. This world is accustomed to seeing a "Middle Eastern" person on a plane and fearing what he is up to. We are accustomed to having to carry proof of citizenship any where we go. We are accustomed to being spied on by our own government in the name of "National Security". We see people who are bullied and persecuted because they are different - we cry outrage, but nothing is ever really done. This is just the way things are. We have become an introverted and anti-social people - not individually but as a group. "Us and Them" is an attitude that runs deep in our society. This nation was started with the phrase: "We the People, of the United States of America..." we need to get back to that tenet.
Something has been lost. I don't presume to have the answers. This started as a personal study of how the events on September 11th, 2001 affected me; I believe that it has turned into a therapeutic diatribe on current events. I apologize in advance, as it was not my intention to offend anyone.
We lost so much and too many twelve years ago (and in the years since); I hope to do justice to the memories of those lost by remembering that the differences we share, as one people are what makes this country great. On September 11th, 2001, a radical group of people tried to destroy what this country stood for, they failed. Though everything has changed for us; this country is founded on core principles that are as sound and as true today, as they were over two hundred years ago. We just need to remember that.
I now humbly step down from my soapbox, thank you.