Today, many people are going to talk about September 11, 2001 – they will share stories about people they knew impacted by the attacks, they will discuss different theories about what happened, and lots of people will talk about where they were when the towers fell. It’s been said before: 9/11 is a certain generation’s equivalent of the Kennedy assassination (1963), or an equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack (1941). These are events in history that give cause to stop and listen to the news, to become more connected to our neighbors and our countrymen in union before these moments. The same might be said of the First Moon Landing (1969), however, this event was a triumphant occasion, a moment of success and celebration. Unfortunately what links the Kennedy Assassination, the Pearl Harbor Attack, and 9/11 is tragedy. These are immense and monumental tragedies that have called for American union not on celebration, but in mourning.
Where were you on September 11, 2001?
I just woke up for school. I was a sophomore in high school and I was usually the first person awake in our house. My mother was in the living room before me this morning, however, and she had the news on. Since we lived in California, we were watching live coverage of the attacks nearly 2 hours after they started, as the World Trade Center towers came crumbling down. It’s confused in my memory now, but between my mother and I, one of us said someone must have had an accident. The other of us replied no, they did this on purpose. While we watched, it was impossible to understand what was happening. Was it an earthquake? Did a pilot have an emergency while flying?
I didn’t know anyone on the East Coast, much less in New York City, at the time, and so these events shook me, but had less of an impact on me than they did on other people. When I came back from school that day, the news was still on. I watched looping images of the towers seeming to melt where they stood and then miraculously, cruelly, they were rebuilt in reversed broadcast so that viewers could relive the nightmare on playback. It took so long to wrap my head around what had actually happened, all the while nursing a sick feeling in my stomach that to watch the towers dissolve in flames, knowing people died inside while everywhere else, people watched, was either patriotic or supportive of the terror ignited by hate. It took at least a day (probably longer, but I don’t remember now) for the news to discontinue playing the footage of the attacks. There was so much confusion.
I know that for my generation, this was the beginning of a period we would grow up in – the United States immersed in two foreign wars. Lots of my high school friends and people I knew in college eventually went into the military. Many people threw around theories about what really happened. Peers in school began to grow comfortable with the idea of hate – that we are hated and that we have the right to hate others. I have a dull, aching pain in my chest thinking about this now. And I am so sad for the things that have happened that have catalyzed more tragedy, more loss, and more hate.
World Peace Day is coming up (September 21). Peace is living with our shared history, recognizing our global responsibilities to each other, and acting on that responsibility for the safety and security of all world citizens.
Always remember September 11, on this Patriot Day, the 10th anniversary of a great tragedy, let us remember and act for peace.