Where were you on 9/11? How many times have you been asked this question? I was on my way to class at Temple University. As I got off the subway I saw people gathered around food trucks with TVs showing pictures of the Pentagon burning. The volume was turned down and I didn't stop to ask so I had no idea that there was anything going on other than an accident in DC. When I arrived at class everyone was chatty and the professor had a hard time getting our attention. When we finally quieted down, he told those of us who didn't know about what had happened in New York and then excused us to go home and be with friends and family. This class had over 100 people in it and I didn't know very many of them. But one girl started crying and someone said she was from NYC.
I began my subway ride home a little nervously. If they had attacked New York and DC, was Philadelphia next? We are right in the middle of the other two. When I was just about to get off the train my cell phone rang. It was my sister, Keri, calling to make sure that we were OK and that we knew what was going on. I got home in time to hug my husband extra tight before he had to go to work and in time to watch the first tower fall. Instead of a day of classes, I sat glued to the news watching the images over and over and over again.
I didn't lose anyone on that day but I have been deeply affected by it nonetheless. I think we all have. I remember in college I did a report on JFK's assassination. I had to interview two people who had been alive at that time and ask how it had affected them. I didn't get why it was such a big deal. I thought the conspiracy aspect was far more interesting and relevant than how people felt. What I didn't understand at that time was how completely a single, shared, tragic experience like the Kennedy Assassination or 9/11 can impact all of us. In many ways we now measure our lives by pre 9/11 and post 9/11. Our national imaginary bubble of protection is gone. My personal imaginary bubble of safety and security went with it. But I love how the country, and the world, drew together in support of each other. I just wish it would have lasted longer than it did. I wish that brotherly love and support wasn't just something we dusted off for one day each September.
My heart goes out to the families and friends who are still mourning the loss of a loved one on that tragic day. I am eternally grateful for the first responders who sacrificed themselves willingly to save others so they could return to their families and have a second chance to really live. And I am grateful every day for the soldiers across the world who watch over us and fight daily to protect us from the recurrence of such an indescribably horrible event.
Our church put out this very moving account of a 9/11 survivor and how it inspired him to really look at what was important in his life. I suggest you take the time to watch it.
Some great literature I have read that covers 9/11:
A fictional story about a boy who lost his Father on 9/11.
From the Story Corps project. It is transcriptions from all sorts of people and includes a story from a survivor and a story of someone who lost his fiancee that day.