Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11/01

Every generation has a defining moment. There is an instance, a point in history where everyone will remember for the rest of their lives where they were and what they were doing. Now, I’m not referring to living through the Vietnam War, or Operation: Iraqi Freedom. Those are more of an on-going series of events. Important none the less, but not the caliber of a single event that sets a nation on it’s ear. Most everyone born in the 20’s knows where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked. If they were born in the 40’s, they remember where they were when Kennedy was shot.

My generation’s defining moment took place exactly 7 years ago today with the attack on the World Trade Center, 9/11/01.

Through both grade school and high school, I remember doing a number of assignments in history and social studies that required us to interview someone who was alive during a certain event and of a certain age. The goal was to see what they remembered in their view and what they thought about what happened in contrast to the global interpretation of the situation. By the time my kids get to that age, there may have been another global event, but my younger sisters and cousins will be called upon to investigate these events with people who were about my age at the time.

So here’s what I remember…

I was 21 years old. It was a Tuesday morning when I woke up because my mom was calling me. I was in college, but classes weren’t slated to start for another week or two, so to wake a sleeping student before 9 am was a grievous sin. I sleepily answered the phone, a little irritated all in all. When mom asked me if I was up, with irritation in my voice, I let her know that she had woken me. It was then that she told me to turn on the TV. I said “okay…what channel.” Her response was “It doesn’t matter.” Mom is not a TV watcher really, and not often up before 9 herself. Not to mention we had a satellite dish at my house, and got something ridiculous like 300 channels. For her to say that it didn’t matter what channel had to mean something very significant.

I turned on the TV, and sure enough, for 300 channels all I saw was a smoking city skyline from two-dozen different angles. I had to flip around a few times and wake up a little more to realize that it was, in-fact, New York, and that there had been a major accident which I would recognize as a terrorist attack 5 minutes later.

Most of the rest of the afternoon was kind of a daze. Channels broadcast video and images non-stop the rest of the day and for weeks there after. MTV actually played music videos all day long, something they haven’t done in years, and launched their “5 Things You Need To Know” campaign to help their demographic understand a little more about people, places, and events associated with the attack. People lined up for blocks making a mess out of traffic patterns to get into gas stations and fill up in fear that prices would skyrocket overnight. They didn’t. I got an email from a friend who worked at Wright Patterson Air Force Base that afternoon who said the base, in Ohio mind you, was working like nothing she’d ever seen in all her time there. Everyone had to go everywhere in teams of 2, and fighter jets were immediately scrambled, taking off 2 at a time every 3 minutes all day long. And for weeks after the initial attack, recording artists from Alan Jackson to Creed had mixes of their songs recorded and released in patriotic fashion adding sound bytes of speeches and public reaction to their music.

There it is. That is my Reader’s Digest account of the events surrounding 9/11. The more I think about it, the more I remember. The more I remember, the more I could write. But I’m prone to longwinded essays when I just mean to drop a quick line. So here’s where I stop. At least for now.

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