There are a few events that define each generation and I think the events of 9/11 did just that for mine. I’ve not met anyone yet who wasn’t able to quickly answer the question … “where were you when the towers fell?”
On 9/11/2001, I was living in Virginia Beach, VA, and was in my third and final school year of law school at Regent University’s School of Law. One of the biggest things that defines that area were the 5 military bases in close proximity. I worked in a building called The World Trade Center, though it was far shorter than the towers in New York City in downtown Norfolk but lived and went to school in Virginia Beach.
We didn’t have a TV in our office and I’m pretty sure it was a family member who called someone in the office to alert us that something was happening. We looked up news sites online and saw the events begin to unfold. Soon thereafter, the office building was evacuated. We were all completely freaked out and there was a general sense of dread over the whole town. Not just for the loss of life, but also that a large percentage of the population was connected to the military. Whatever/whoever had brought the towers down, the men and women of our military knew that they would be affected directly. All the families knew it too.
After we were evacuated, it was hard to know what to do. I’m pretty sure I had a class at some point that day but I’m also pretty sure everything was cancelled. We had quite a few active military students in my class. I ended up at a bank, watching the surreal coverage and getting my bar application notarized. Hey, that’s just how my brain works — focusing on something concrete and real was helpful for me.
None of the phone calls were connecting to anyone near the city because everyone had flooded the airwaves. I remember that I was worried about my sister, who lived in the city then, but I don’t have a specific memory of when it was confirmed she was ok. Also, I am still a bit befuddled by the geography of the city and I honestly had and have no idea how far the towers were from where she lived/worked at the time.
9/11/11 ended without a lot of answers, with walls papered with the pictures of the missing and with the entire nation aghast and searching for something, anything to do.
The aftermath was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The swell of patriotism and love of country was powerful. I also remember hearing about the hate crimes that were perpetrated against a variety of darker skinned people. I remember that everyone was flying an American flag and the urgency of the men and women in uniform that I knew who wanted to just DO something about the fact that we’d been attacked. I also remember that the incident was used to change a number of laws and policies, not always for the better. I’d also managed to forget that we didn’t have an Office of Homeland Security before 9/11.
To find out that we are not invincible, that we are a target, that we are susceptible to such danger was sobering. Did we learn our lesson? Did we absorb the knowledge that we must not assume that we are the center of the world? I’m not sure, to be frank.
I know the privilege that being born in the US affords me. I know it and I live it, every day. My children have that privilege as well. My husband is a naturalized citizen and there is no one who loves his adopted country more.
No individual, group or nation is perfect. The flaws of one group or person are not the flaws of another. Yet, despite the flaws, despite the challenges we all face, I am grateful to have been born and lived here, in the United States of America.
I hope you will all join me in a moment of silence to remember the people we lost that day, the heroism of so many first responders who leaped into danger without regard for themselves, and those people who still suffer the after effects of living through the events of 9/11.
We will not forget.
We MUST never forget.
PS: here’s a great minute by minute account of what happened when that day. I was astonished at how many details I’ve forgotten.