9-11: A Memoir

For the three-year anniversary of September 11th, I felt it would be appropriate to put to a short memoir of that day. After all this time, it still rings amazing clear from the time I first found out until I became aware at the truly horrifying nature of the attack. Still, I realize that memory fails over time, so I figured that I ought to put it all down on paper the best way possible.

The day was September 11, 2001 and it was a Tuesday. I got to sleep into about 8 AM, as my first class was not until 11 AM. My dad was still home, helping my grandfather who had been sick the previous night. I woke up, read the papers online and offline, and took a shower like usual. Looking out, it was going to be a beautiful, clear and crisp September day. It was ideal weather. I was happy, as I was starting to love college and all the freedom it brought, even though I had only been there for two weeks total.

Right after I had taken my shower, and was about to leave with my dad to take him to work and for me to go to college, my mom called. She just called to check in, and to find out if dad was planning on going to work with me. Over the phone she mentioned that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings, though it didn’t get much of reaction from me. At that point, I knew that the World Trade Center buildings were those big and tall, ugly gray buildings in the skyline of the city, but little more.

Plane accidents and other rather horrific things are announced on the news all the time, so I wasn’t particularly surprised. It was 9:30 about then, and I hopped in my car and turned on the radio and listened to music for about 10 minutes. A little before 9:45 AM, there was a news bulletin about this story, and it suggested that I turn to WGY radio station for more details. The news bulletin suggested it might be terrorism. Flipping to WGY, I was shocked to hear that the FAA thought that several planes had been hijacked that this was part of a massive attack on the United States.

I listened carefully. Details on the radio were often sketchy and confusing. There was the Pentagon attack, two or one planes in the World Trade Center, and a lot of other information that proved to be wrong. My dad and me speculated on what this would mean to the United States, and how different policy actors would react to these attacks. He said it would be an incredibly interesting time to be studying Political Science.

I dropped him off to work at the Center for the Disabled in South Albany. He got out of the car, and suggested I turn off the radio so not to be distracted while driving. I went to turn on the music station I was listening to previously, but it just mirrored WGY. Clear Channel directed all its stations to these terrorist attacks. I got to college at about 10:30 A.M., and by then I started to get a fairly good idea on what had happened, though many of the details were still sketchy.

The attack had left me feeling a bit overwhelmed and shocked at the same time. It was a rather strange feeling, one that is nearly impossible to describe in words. I was downright angry that any individual or group could be so wasteful and do such destruction. I also felt like I was deathly alone, even though I was sitting in a parking lot full of students all sitting in their cars listening to the radios. Still, I stayed at college, intent on going to my class. I wasn’t particularly scared, though I guess it would have been smart to evacuate the city to go home, where I would have been safe. I just could not seem to personalize these events until I saw them.

I got out of my car about 10:45 AM and walked over to Amstuz Hall for my 11 AM Statistics Class. When I got there, the television was on, showing for the first time some of the most horrific scene I had ever seen. The bright blue sky contrasted against the burning buildings. They repeatedly showed the same couple of seconds of poorly shot film of the second plane hitting the building and the smoldering one plain. Then the news got worst: one of the buildings had collapsed. The news was so horrific, though nobody really knew how to react.

Throughout the day, a question kept popping up in my mind: what would this mean to us Americans? I knew how a post-Columbine world meant the decline of our civil liberties in High School, and I couldn’t imagine what would become of America. Some of the radio commentaries hinted slightly at this issue, though most it was drown out by the shock and hype about this day. I went as far as to mention to a friend that I thought “the worst tragedy won’t happen today, but September 12 or whenever Congress gets back down to business”. I knew that future legislation like the PATRIOT Act would greatly threaten our liberties.

A little after 11 AM, I was notified that all classes were canceled for the day. I called my mom and let her know I was okay, classes were cancelled, and that it looked like both towers had fell. Then, I hopped in my car and went home. But first, I sat in my car, waiting for traffic to clear, as thousands of students fought to get out of the parking lot. I sat in my car listening to the continuing radio coverage. I got home, and laid back, and drowned out the whole world.

Looking up at the sky the next couple of days, it was kind of refreshing to see a clear sky without any planes. It was kind of strange, but nice without the roar of jet engines passing distantly above, or jet trails clogging up the clear sky. I kind of wished the world would further remain this way, but I knew such an ideal was impossible to reach.

September 11th came and went. It was a shock, as was the drum beat up to war. This was the first real war of my lifetime, and it challenged me to think about my pacifism in new ways. I fought passionately for civil liberties in class debates, but my wonderful History of the 20th Century Professor Carmen was probably right to a degree: things had to change a bit for war, and that we had to give up only a few civil liberties. Still, I just wish this attack never happened, and that we could enjoy the full liberties of yesteryear.