Friday, September 12, 2008

September 11th

I was on the marching field when the first plane hit. It was a beautiful morning and when Reicher called down his typical "It's a great day to be alive." from the crow's nest, we had no idea what was happening. My high school was on block system and so we wouldn't know until nearly 9:30 CST. 
I had just requisitioned a bra, something I had forgotten when packing my swim bag at 4:00 that morning. At the time, being bra-less seemed like the largest crisis a high school senior girl could face. When I walked into the bathroom everything was normal. When I emerged, my friends were standing in a semi-circle, mouths agape, and it was clear something was terribly wrong. 
Without speaking we all walked quickly to our second block classes. I was sure Mrs. Edwards, the veteran AP English teacher, would have the television on. Much to my disappointment she was absent that day. The entire class period was filled with whispered speculations and confusion. One girl was nearly in tears, murmuring something about how the Rock Island Arsenal was on the bombing list. The substitute refused to let us turn on the television and the school administration was suspiciously silent. When second block ended, I found my friends and skipped the rest of the day. 
We got to my house as the second tower fell. The rest of the afternoon we stood in my living room glued to the television. A tag line at the bottom of the screen informed us that all extracurricular activities were cancelled. When my dad got home, everyone split up and went to their separate homes. 
I remember the lines at the gas stations, the impressive amount of flags everywhere, the exceeding amount of unity permeating the nation, and the anxiety swelling in my chest. I understood that America was not without sin. That we had been attacked and we were going to war (even if, as my friend Joe pointed out, the culprits had no one nation to call home). I was afraid that the attacks would justify racism against people of middle-eastern heritage, or worse, internment camps. I was scared because I didn't trust Bush as far as I could throw him, but I was hopeful that the unity we were experiencing as a nation would see us through. 
I am still hopeful that we will be able to recall the events of that day and rediscover the unity we had in the wake of that disaster.  I am hopeful the new president will refuse to use the memory of 9/11 to elicit fear and that going forward we will use the events of that tragedy to unite us rather than divide us. 

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