Where Were You?

I can’t believe there are 13 year olds out there who have never seen a time when both twin towers stood. It’s hard to even fathom that a historical disaster like that stands so clear in my mind, and yet there are millions of people who have never known a world before it. There are children who grew up in the aftermath of 9/11 and were quite literally born into America’s War on Terror.

Meanwhile, in my generation this event was a defining moment in each of our lives. We are plagued by the question that so many who experienced that day can answer without a second’s hesistation: where were you on 9/11. No one actually asks this question anymore…and yet, there we all are answering it as if it’s an expectation or right of passage that we are old enough to remember that moment in history.

Sometimes I think it would be better to have been born after that fateful day in American history–to have not seen the live news feed as the second tower was hit. To some students that moment is like any other in their textbooks–history. Part of the past. Sure it happened in the more recent past, but it was before their time and hence it is not their past.

But it is my past. It has shaped the world I live in as well as the worldview I hold. My sense of country and pride took ahold of me that day. I was young. I was 12 years old. That was half a lifetime ago for me. I can’t say with confidence that in that moment I knew exactly what that day would mean in history as time passed, but I knew it would mean something. Everyone knew it meant something. What did it mean?

Looking back now I think that day represents different things to each person that experienced it. To some, it was a reminder of the fragility of life. Others, a realisation of the brutal world we live in. I remember a lot from the news that day and the years following. I remember names of attackers, death tolls, and haunting images that will be forever burned into my mind….but what I remember most clearly are the heroes. There were civilians in the offices leading coworkers out of the building, firefighters risking their lives to save victims from the rubble, passengers on the flight that was meant for DC. I remember bravery. So today rather than hating the people that caused it, questioning why it happened, and judging the politics around it, I will choose to remember the bravery of the country that came together to respond to great tragedy.

I was asleep in my bed at home. It was just another morning for me until my mom raced into my room and pulled me out of my bed. I reached the tv just as the second tower got struck. I remember watching closely as my Mom explained the gravity of what was unfolding. I was in my home watching the tv with my mom and sister. That’s where I was when the twin towers fell.

9/11 is a part of my past, and as much as it redefined security, flying, politics and foreign relations, for me, it also redefined the sense of country. America has so much further to go in terms of uniting as a people. As with all countries, we have our faults, flaws and shortcomings. But as terrible as 9/11 was…as much it brought our nation to its knees, it also brought us together.

Being in Australia on such a heavy day of American history was an interesting experience. The entire day passed by with only one conversation about 9/11. Granted, that conversation included the “where were you,” and it shocked me that even as far away as Australia is, even my friend remembered where he was at that moment. I actually didn’t even realize the date until about lunch time because here they report the date as day, month, year. So it didn’t click until midday that 11/9 was 9/11. I know as the US wakes up to their 9/11 day, my newsfeeds will be flooded with the stories and pictures forever burned in everyone’s memories. Sometimes this type of information overload can be a bit exhausting, but on days like today, I love it. I love watching my country, one that is so often plagued by divisions (of religion, education, race, etc), come together under one flag and simply remember. Remember a tragedy, remember a history, but most importantly remember the heroes and the day that America fell apart only to rise again as one.

(some of this post was written two years ago…but I’ve tweaked a few things and the words still ring as true to me now as they did then)