Sunday, September 11, 2011


Some of my friends posted about their experiences being in New York on 9/11. I know many DC friends have similar memories. It almost feels strange to not have that experience. Despite living in DC for seven years, I can't imagine what I'd do, how I'd react. I can't picture the city shut down, people walking home. The smells, the sounds, the terror of not knowing what happened to people you know and care about. Seeing the gaping holes. People in NY mentioned being afraid of planes, always plotting their trajectory. I can't imagine those in DC. DCA is right outside the city and desperately close to the Pentagon; planes are constantly on the last approach over that area. How unnerving that must have been.

My story is no where near as dramatic. I was a sophomore in college, in the shower getting ready for class when the first plane hit. My mom called nearly immediately, "just to be sure, even though I know nothing happened to you." I had no idea. I hung up with her (they were stuck in Denver trying to get home for several days), and turned on the tv. I sat there, hugging a teddy bear, watching what was happening, seeing the second plane hit and then the towers collapsing. Being shocked and terrified and horrified. And then getting up and going to class, because I didn't know what else to do. We were supposed to have a review for an exam, and that's exactly what we did. Our professor wanted to keep things as normal as possible for us.

There was a strange atmosphere over the whole campus. No one knew how to cope; should things go on as normal, should we take time to grieve? My dorm had a kind of fluff "getting to know the dorm" class; in that one, we colored, which seemed strangely appropriate. I had a paper due the next day on Machiavelli and *The Prince*'s impact on politics. I wrote it that night, trying to ignore what had happened (I got a C+, one of two in my whole college career. The other was my first paper at Oxford, from my tutor who wanted me to be writing at a grad school level, and graded at that level). There were probably 30 vigils. I went to two or three, singing and holding hands with people I'd never seen before, and didn't see after. I lay in bed at night, feeling unsafe, thinking how easily we could be attacked. I remember CSF's banquet the next year, and the sister (a CSF alum) of Todd Beamer came and spoke about her brother.

After, several country singers wrote songs about it. Some are angry, like "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" by Toby Keith, but my favorite is "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?" It makes me tear up almost every time I hear it. Things changed for America that day, but I look at how people banded together, and *that* seems like a good thing.

I have other friends who have mentioned that they don't want to look back, they want to look forward. That all the media attention is too much, that the best way to pay tribute is by living. And I get that; every other year, I've done my best to ignore the anniversary. And today, I'm not watching the news, I'm not going to any vigil. I went to the local coffee shop, I went to the farmers market. Life continues.

But I'm a sucker for anniversaries anyways, and this was something that had a profound impact on not only me, but everyone I know.