20 years ago today was an overwhelmingly confusing day. I remember so vividly being on the phone at work, I was a paralegal in a law office in the World Trade Center in Virginia, and a family member called a coworker and told us to turn on the news. We all gathered around and watched the second plane hit.
No one knew what in the world was going on.
We were told to evacuate our office because no one knew what was going on and where other targets might be. All of the ships and subs left the military bases in the area and the wives and children of the sailors were left behind to wonder.
Because I had no idea what to do, I went to the bank to get my application to the Florida Bar notarized. We watched the news there too. Watched how more planes hit the ground and more information came to light.
A family member of mine lived in NYC and we couldn’t reach her for quite a while. All of the cell towers were overwhelmed. Everyone assumed the worst and panic was in the air.
Over the next days and weeks, it was hard to focus on work or school. Living in an area where there were five (5) military bases definitely affected how I experienced the aftermath of an attack on our country. Everyone was scared and yet there was a significant sense that we were all in it together. And so many were ready to get out there and do something. Attacks on people of middle eastern heritage or vaguely looking like they were happened a lot in those days and weeks after 9/11, too often.
20 years later, I don’t believe we still have all the answers about what happened, why it happened and what we did as a country in response. We know enough to be worried about the enemies of our way of life and we know enough to know that it is possible (and likely) to overreact. We know that it is not right to react to an entire group of people or a religion. We know that assumptions, racial profiling, reacting blindly, etc., are wrong.
And I hope we do never forget, all of it.