Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reverence & Rememberance

I, like all Americans older than 12, remember where I was 9 years ago today.  I think I will always remember.  I hope I never forget.  I was a college freshman in Charleston, South Carolina.  I had only been away from my family for a week and a half and the newness of college, new friends, a new town, new experiences, a new boyfriend, had yet to wear off and really make me homesick.  However, on this day 9 years ago, that was brought to an abrupt halt.  I suddenly wanted nothing more than to be at home with my mom hugging me and telling me it was going to be OK.  I woke up a little before 9:00 that morning.  Unlike most new college students, my classes didn't start until 1:30 in the afternoon.  For an 18 year old who had never been on her own it was great.  It was even greater that my first class of college was Mixology - the science of being a bartender.  I wasn't even old enough to drink the beverages I was learning to concoct but how cool would that make me among my high school friends when we all saw each other again at Thanksgiving?  Anyway, I got up that morning and 2 of my room mates had already left for class.  My third room mate Megan, who I shared a bedroom with, had not quite roused herself from sleep yet so I shuffled in my pajamas to our living room and turned on the television.  I was immediately stunned and confused by what I saw in front of me.  The words the reporters were saying didn't register to me, all I remember seeing were people in New York running and it looked like they were covered in snow.  It seemed like an eternity before I realized what had happened, a plane had been flown into the World Trade Center.  I watched in awe, waiting for answers on what had happened.  Was this an accident?  Was this an intentional attack.  "Surely not, this is America after all."  I remember thinking that.  Clear as day.  Then I watched in horror as the second plane hit the second tower.  I heard Megan move in the next room and went to get her.  I told her what was happening to the best of my ability and had her come into the living room and watch the news reports with me if for nothing else but to confirm that I was actually seeing and hearing what I thought I was seeing and hearing.  For the next couple of hours I sat in front of the television somewhat in disbelief of what I was seeing.  I saw the report of a plane hitting the Pentagon.  I heard about Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.  I still kept thinking "This can't be happening.  This is America.  This can't be happening."  Eventually I embraced the fact that it was happening and my life was still happening and I had to go to class.  I dressed and walked to the bus stop where for the first time no one was talking to one another.  The bus ride from West Ashley to our downtown campus was silent.  When class started our teacher, Mrs. Hawkins, first asked us if there was anyone in the class who had family members in New York or Washington that they couldn't get in touch with.  She then told us that if we felt like we needed to go home we were welcomed to but she had a bit of advice before we made that decision.  She said that while these events were tragic and mind blowing, she thought that the best thing to do was to keep going on with our lives.  To help each other by keeping ourselves busy.  To not let these people, these wretched and frightening people who were responsible for these events, to have the power over our lives that they were trying to take.  We could do this best by going on with our lives and while not disregarding what happened or acting like it didn't happen but instead using it as a reason to go on, show our strength as Americans, show that they could not cripple us or disable us.  She was a wise woman.  So I stayed.   Class ended early that evening and I think I got home by 6:30.  My new boyfriend and I went downtown just to get out and walk, be where other people were, people who were sharing our fear and disbelief.  Something about staying at home that night seemed so stifling. That night a place that was usually alive and full of tourists on vacation was empty.  I remember most walking down King Street and for all the world it looked like it was 2:00 in the morning instead of 8:00 pm.  Shops were closed.  The sidewalks were nearly empty.  Signs were posted in doors alerting customers who weren't even there that the owners and staff were taking the time to be with their families and pray.  It was a strange world that evening.  One with so much uncertainty as to what was going to happen next.  Would there be more attacks?  Where was there 9 left to try and attack?  Would we go to war?  Who on Earth were we going to fight if we did go to war?  What happened?  Today I pulled out the journal I started the day I moved to South Carolina and had to flip only a couple of pages to find what I wrote that day.

"I'm scared to death.  There's been a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center & the Pentagon.  Both of the World Trade Center buildings have collapsed.  There's no telling how many people are dead and I haven't left the apartment to see how everyone around here is reacting.  But, I'm so scared.  I'm afraid that there's going to be a war.  I'm even more afraid that it's going to be on our soil.  Around us.  I really wish I didn't have to go to class.  I'm just so scared of what's going to happen."

9 years later, at the age of 27, I don't think I would react any differently than my 18 year old self did.  I still pray for our country.  I always will.  I will not ever forget.

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