As I sit sniffling at my computer, reading countless articles and blog entries about this, the tenth anniversary of the day that will forever be known simply by its date-- “9/11” --it hits me anew how much this changed not just our world, but all of us. In that one horrific day, the last vestiges of our innocence literally went up in flames, leaving only indescribable sorrow, bitterness, and an increased awareness of evil in the remaining ashes.
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Ten years ago saw me far removed (in body) from the shocking events which would take place that day. I was nearing the end of a seasonal job in a midwestern state, preparing to pick up stake and move again in just a few weeks’ time. I’d been to Washington D.C. on a couple occasions (once for business and once for pleasure), but hadn’t yet ventured to New York. I barely knew anyone there at the time, either--one relative, a few business acquaintances. Still, having seen numerous TV shows and movies, as well as having read so many books set in New York, I--like probably the majority of Americans--had at least a passing familiarity with it, and certainly felt a connection to it.
On the morning of 9/11, I was engaged in the most prosaic of activities--picking up a few notions (thread, buttons) in the fabric department at Wal-Mart--when I heard the news coming over the p.a. system, interrupting the piped-in Muzak. (It’s actually a wonder it even penetrated my brain; I have an uncanny ability to block out advertising, deejay patter, and most other interruptions on radio or TV.) I can still remember my head jerking up, my ears straining to make sure I’d really heard what I couldn’t possibly have just heard, that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, even as the rest of me--my limbs, my breathing--simply stopped. I don’t think I moved for at least the next five minutes (aside from breathing, which of course resumed--albeit uncomfortably shallow and fast).
I have only the vaguest recollection of racing back to the apartment in a daze; fortunately, it was only a few miles away. I know I was paying a lot more attention to the radio than to the road and any traffic.
For the rest of that day and on into the night, we sat glued to the TV, seeing images of the smoking towers, hearing report after report of planes missing and then presumed hijacked, watching in disbelief as one--then hours later, the second--tower fell, seeing the Pentagon in flames, and listening to the plight of Flight 93. (It seems almost unspeakably sad to say that tales of the bravery of passengers on that doomed flight--passengers who managed to foil the hijackers!--was a tiny bright spot on such an impossibly awful day.) The next day was much the same--visions of smoking rubble and reports of casualties... and the shedding of so many more tears. It would be, actually, a very long time--even in the distant midwest--before things felt sort of “back to normal”... or as “normal” as things can ever be, in this scary, post-9/11 world.
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This was not, of course, the first time a radical faction had chosen extreme and violent means to deliver a message of hate and intolerance. It wasn’t the first time planes had been hijacked with tragic results, nor the first time bombs had killed scores of innocent civilians in a metro area. It was, however, the largest of such heinous plans to be executed, and with such massively-devastating results. And it, perhaps more than any previous hate crime, changed the way we see our world.
On this sad day of remembrance, I shudder to think about those who view this day as a cause for celebration of the lives, and hopes, laid to waste ten years ago... those individuals who actually believe that violence is some sort of solution. May they never again achieve such horrific results... and may the rest of us find it within ourselves to continue believing in the power of peace and promoting harmony, in the hopes of one day making our world a better, not worse, place.