Throughout history, there are events so monumental in impact that they are burned into the mental timelines of everyone living during its occurrence. As a kid, I heard my parents and other people of their generation exchange their answers to "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" I wondered if there would ever be anything in my own lifetime that would rock the nation to its core to the point of knowing your exact locations when it happened. Unfortunately, that pivotal moment in time for my generation was 9/11/01. So many things changed that day and left an impact on all of us. Here's my personal story of "where I was" when the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were attacked. Things may be slightly out of chronological order from how they appear in recorded history, because the onslaught of horrific news, confusion and chaos hit me (and all of us) like a tornado. I'm now remembering details I haven't thought about in years, but I think it's important to write about this life-altering event as I remember it.
It was my freshman fall of college at the University of Alabama. My world had changed in a myriad of ways over the past few months, and due to a volatile, abusive dating relationship I was involved in, life already felt topsy-turvy and dangerously unpredictably for me. Hopes, dreams and ideals were shattering left and right in my life... and 9/11 took that even farther. I had just come back to my dorm room after a long night of fighting, yelling and me crying (about God only knows what at this point... I probably smiled too brightly at another guy or something similar) and attempted not to wake my roommate, Amber. Of all the people in this world that I could share this moment with, it's so fitting that it was her. We were born in the same hospital on the same day and delivered by the same doctor... After "re-meeting" in high school, we became close friends and decided to be college roomies. Although lots of "life" has happened and time has passed since then, we remain good friends to this day, and every year I think about how young and horrified we were after hearing "the news."
It was around 7 a.m., and being seriously upset, I did what most girls would do and called my Mom for comfort. After listening to me cry for a few minutes, she interrupted me and told me to turn the TV on, that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. I fumbled for the remote and turned it on just in time to see another plane hit the second tower, which confused me for a moment, because I thought it must be a replay of the crash Mom had mentioned... but I was wrong. At this point I woke Amber up and tried to bring her up to speed on what was happening. Horrified, we sat on my bed and shared a blanket... desperate to understand what happened and who did it.
Was it an accident?! Who would do this?! WHAT WAS HAPPENING!?!?
At this point, the newscasters had minimal information... No one knew anything... they kept contradicting themselves and each other.
What a MESS.
This was a huge, momentous attack, and no one knew who in the hell was to blame. We didn't know if we were about to get nuked or when the attacks would stop, as we learned about the Pentagon crash and then the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. Together, we watched the madness -- absolute MADNESS -- of the chaos that ensued in Manhattan following the attacks. People covered in ash and debris ran for their lives, the air filled with thick particles. In horror, we saw countless people jump from the Twin Towers... trying to escape the hell of the inferno their offices had just become. Soon thereafter, a picture of Osama Bin Ladin was shown, with news anchors attempting to say his name and words like "Taliban" and "Afghanistan" and instantly, we (as well as most of the nation, I'm sure) were enraged... And finally, we had a target at which to aim our rage. It still amazes me how much relief can come from just having someone to be mad at... But then we felt helpless, because what could we DO about it?
We had really no clue what to do next... and in a time in my life where I was already overwhelmed at figuring out how to handle an echelon of new situations all by myself, I just wanted SOMEONE to tell me WHAT to DO. Oh, sweet irony... a teenager that at last WANTS to be told what to do, and no one knew what to tell me. Should we fill up our cars with gas?! This involved the Middle East... so would it affect our oil and gas availability? Should we go home to Montgomery?! We were scared, confused, mad and hurt, knowing that our lives would forever be impacted by this day's events. Traveling changed... national security changed... our innocence, in believing that an inconceivable act like this could happen, was obliterated. I will never forget that day, how it made me feel, or the way it changed my thinking.
Now, thirteen years later to the day, I'm sitting here and trying to decide on how to explain the significance of this day to my four young children. How do I explain the existence of evil in the world? I don't HIDE things from them... especially those with historical significance... but at the same time I dread the loss of the innocence that knowing about this kind of thing that will happen. But they need to know... they need to be prepared for when their generation's pivotal timeline dot occurs... and to know that while life may change, it will go on after it happens.