I remember when I was a kid how I was always worried about the mandate to sign up for ‘the Draft’ once I turned 18. The Vietnam War was currently being fought. My worrying must have begun when I was in 5th grade as that is my first recollection of the fear, therefore I was 10 years old. Still 8 years away from the Draft mandate and I worried about the prospect of being drafted and going to war all the time. I didn’t want to be drafted and I didn’t want to fight in the war, yet I knew that it was something I was required by law to do. My worry was constant but I kept quiet about it and never told anyone.
It would be another three years before I was relieved of my worrying state due to the war’s end. I wonder what long term effects this had on my emotional psyche. Now I could relax. Now I could really think about my future and ‘what I wanted to become when I grew-up’. The relief for me was like no other. The conflict had ended and I no longer needed to harbor such ongoing angst.
Well into my adulthood I was free from antagonistic worldly concerns. I thought that I would live my entire life without global conflict. For my own good, I was naive about our country’s safety. Everyone was naive.
Every day is a really great day for someone. There is something special awaiting, or about to be created that recognizes and ultimately commemorates the day into an extra-ordinary day. Sadly, the opposite is true as well. Every day is a really bad day for someone. Those days are a time of sorrow and reflection.
The eleventh day of the ninth month was always a good day. It is, after all, Irene’s birthday. I remember one morning Irene and I got up early as usual so that we could go to the gym together to work out. We’d always spend time on the treadmill first, and then work on the weight machines afterward. This particular day was Tuesday, and on Tuesday’s we always worked biceps and triceps.
After we were finished, we would each head off into the locker room to collect our gym bags. The locker rooms at the time always had televisions mounted from the ceiling and were located in the corners of the room. They were always set to a news channel. On this day however, I was surprised to see that the televisions were not tuned to a new channel. They were tuned to some other channel that was playing a disaster movie of sorts, only I had never seen this movie. No one had ever seen this movie, because it wasn’t a movie at all. It was the news channel and we were viewing Live news coverage of New York.
9/11/01 – The eleventh day of the ninth month. The year, two-thousand, one. It was Irene’s birthday.
The eleventh day of the ninth month, two-thousand, one – was also a day that marked the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
And on that day, the world changed. My naivety was exposed – to me. Those blinders that I wore for my entire life, those blinders that painted the world as being ‘rosy’, those blinders that kept me from constant worry were ripped off without warning. Those blinders were ripped off for us all. What next?, we all thought.
Once Irene and I returned home, we immediately turned on the television to watch the live coverage. At that time, everyone still thought that a passenger jet flying into one of the World Trade Center towers was a horrific accident but details were still unknown. Clung together, we watched as the helicopter camera gave us a close up view of the gaping fiery hole. I remember seeing a wide angle view, and watching as another large passenger jet flew into the picture and then directly into the second tower. This could not be happening! How could this be?
I don’t remember the specific timeline but there were two additional passenger jets that crashed on this day, one into the Pentagon, and one into a field in Pennsylvania. This one was believed to be heading toward the U.S. Capitol. What the hell is going on?
We continued watching the television, everyone in the world was watching the Live news coverage. Both towers were in flames and close up helicopter cameras gave us all horrific imagery that cannot be erased from our brains. Glass was being broken from the inside. People knew there would be no escape. They knew, and they jumped. Frightened individuals pushed so far to the brink of sanity made a decision that they would rather die on their own terms than at the circumstances of this disaster. We watched live as they jumped out of the building to avoid being burnt to death.
It got worse. The Twin Towers live news coverage now displayed the compromised structure of one of the towers and it was beginning to bend from the middle portion where it had been hit. It wasn’t long before the building collapsed and dust and debris was billowing through all that was Lower Manhattan. Shortly thereafter the second tower collapsed. Never before had I experienced such fear, and I was on the other end of the country, about 3,000 miles away. Our heads were spinning. This was inconceivable and there was no way to process what was happening.
Irene had to go to work on that day, I did not as this all happened before I became a teacher. I don’t know how she was able to muster the wherewithal because I literally watched news coverage the entire day. When the Live eventful chaos seemed to have subsided, I knew that I needed to call home and talk with mom and dad. Parents always comfort their children in times of fear, and this thirty-nine year old child needed some parental comfort.
On that day I remember thinking that I had lived much of my life without impending fear, that everything was OK and it would stay that way. Apparently not.
I talk with my students every year of that day and they listen with fierce focus. I tell them of my childhood fear of being drafted for the war and how all that changed once the war had ended. I tell them how I became naively content about my lifelong safety. I tell them that I hope, and pray, they never have to experience a historical event like this in their lifetime because we were all victims on that day. And I tell them we will Never Forget.