As an American, I feel the need to post about the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. I also feel the need to talk about what I was doing that day, as all Americans like to do.
I was a sophomore in high school. We were going over problem sets in math class when Mr. Krebs, the campus minister and freshman English teacher knocked on the door. He informed us that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. At that point nobody knew how or why, and we were all strangely fascinated by it, still thinking it was some freak accident. Soon after the bell rang and we switched classes. I’m not sure which subject we were supposed to be learning, I just remember they turned the news on and we spent the entire period watching the coverage. We saw the second plane hit the second tower in real time. I don’t think we did any school work for the rest of the day, which was a big deal for an academically accelerated school. And since it was a Catholic school, after lunch we gathered in the chapel for an impromptu prayer service. It’s hard to describe what I was feeling at the time — mostly I was just shocked. I remember some of my classmates, especially those whose parents were pilots or were on business trips, were incredibly shook up and couldn’t stop crying. Of course I felt sorry for them, but I knew what we were going through in Covington, Kentucky was absolutely nowhere near what was going down in Manhattan or DC. None of us had family or friends who worked in the towers, or even NYC for that matter. At that point in my life I had never even been to New York. I was old enough to understand the gravity of the situation, but also saw it through the “Glad this didn’t affect me” eyes of a high schooler. Weeks later our religion teacher had us read the obituaries The New York Times ran for various people who perished in the attacks. Putting a name, face and life story with the victims made things sink in more. Several months later, I was in charge of creating our homeroom’s entry into the annual Christmas door decorating contest. While others drew Santas doing calculus or reindeer learning Shakespeare, we went the shameless “Remember the families of victims of 9/11 during Christmastime” route, and taped the NYT obituaries around the door. I even painted a picture of the twin towers.
“A real American votes for our door!” our homeroom teacher shouted as the judges walked by. We ended up winning second place.
Yes, I’m a little embarrassed when I think about my high school self using 9/11 to try to win a pizza party.
I remember the wave of patriotism that struck the nation after the attacks. Had Facebook existed back then, I’m sure everyone would have changed their profile picture to an American flag or “Today, we are all New Yorkers.” It’s hard to describe how the attacks felt both so distant, yet at home. It was definitely a reality slap that the US isn’t invincible or immune from violence on its own soil. Although people freaked about flying post 9/11, I like to think (and hope) that “lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice,” and airplanes are one of the safer ways to travel now. I just wish people like the “I’m going to make a bomb out of liquids over 3.4 oz.” guy and the underwear bomber didn’t make airport security a pain in the butt for the rest of us.