Eight Years Later
Since today does mark the 8th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Virginia, and the attempted attack on the White House or Capitol Building in Washington, DC, I wanted to make sure I acknowledged the day with a little rememberance.
I searched through my blog for the other posts I've made about this day, and I found that I really haven't written about it. Probably partially because I was involved with 9/11 events at college last year, and partially because it's still disconcerting to discuss it.
Like most people, I remember exactly where I was when I saw smoke billowing out of the first hole in the towers early in the morning here in Phoenix. I was at home getting ready for my fifth week of tenth grade at Life School Gold charter school, and my dad flipped on the news in his bedroom and told us all to come see what was going on.
I think I remember recognizing the impact of the situation when a second plane hit the towers, and while Mom was ushering us out to get into the car I said, "We can't go to school right now... this is too important!" Not out of an I-don't-wanna-go-to-school mentality, but rather out of a "Holy crap!" line of thought. Mom actually ended up leaving me at home for my dad to drop me off at school a little closer to start time on his way to work.
Naturally, school was effectively cancelled, with all of us students remaining in homeroom for most of the day. I was in the southeastern-most room, facing west, watching the broadcast on CNN on a television that they had wheeled in on a cart. I remember early on the confusion and chaos that reigned as my classmates and teachers watched the twin towers succumb to the heat of the fires and tumble to the ground, engulfing cameramen and reporters and citizens in ash-like powder.
I remember the first time an anchor had "breaking news" about a third plane reportedly hitting the Pentagon, and thinking that it was surreal that we were being attacked by our own jetliners. I remember the video of the smoldering wreckage of Flight 93, brought down in Shanksville, PA by a determined group of heroic passengers resisting the terrorists in the air.
I can still picture the blank-slated shock on the face of the President - actually, on everyone's faces - as he was told by his Chief of Staff that America was under attack at a school in Florida, and hearing his brief statement before being whisked off to an "undisclosed location."
My feelings on that black day were of numbness, even as a high school student in a small charter school in Mesa, Arizona. I was scared that someone might try to fly a plane into the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. I was in disbelief that something of this magnitude could even be accomplished, and I found myself unable to tear myself away from the television and the incoming redundancy of the news reports.
In the days following, I watched with resolve the President's speech from the rubble of the Trade Center on September 14, 2001, and I must have looked up hundreds of news reports online and on television. The dark gray clouds that could be seen from space over Manhattan Island of the smoke and ash that lingered for weeks it seemed, I see clearly. I remember feeling anger and hatred for Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network, and a sense of helplessness from realizing I was too young even to volunteer to go to New York and help in the rescue and recovery efforts.
Eight years later, when I watch the History Channel broadcasts of the news stories and the photographs taken on 9/11/01, my chest still finds a way of tightening up, and my blood boils when at 12:06pm EST they show the first photo of Osama bin Laden on the Today Show's coverage. It's especially hard to see the pictures of folks who decided to jump from the highest stories of the towers rather than be burned alive in the flaming plane wreckage or choke to death on thick, black smoke. It can be even more difficult to see the photos of people with eyes larger than saucers, mouths open, screaming in abject terror at a nameless, faceless perpetrator and the sense of impending death.
To this very day, I know that the events of 9/11 are what inspired my interest in and love of politics. Not really because anything political happened that day, but because in the weeks and months and even years to follow, I strove to understand why the attacks happened, what caused the failures of security and flaws in communications here in America, and followed the writings and speeches of the President, his cabinet members, the legislators who responded with the PATRIOT Act, the Attornies General charged with upholding and interpreting the new security legislation, journalists, and ordinary citizens who were directly or indirectly involved.
I still don't think I can ever know all the details of 9/11, but authors like Bob Woodward with "insider" perspective on the day, the 9/11 Commission charged with rooting out those details, and accounts and stories of the victims in the towers, planes, and Pentagon have helped to sate my curiousity.
I remember 9/11, and I firmly hold that it something we collectively should never allow to be forgotten. God bless America.