i recently watched an interview i was at first hesitant to view: george w. bush: the 9/11 interview.
worried that politics would sneak in and shade what should be a politics-free act of remembrance, i hesitated. finally, i read a review that promised the interview would be apolitical—just one man’s experience that day—one man who happened to be president.
so i watched. and i remembered. and i cried.
i haven’t written about 9/11 a lot—mostly due to the fact that i feel like sharing my experience that day is somehow an insult to those who actually SURVIVED it—but something former president bush said compelled me to write.
he ended the interview by stating that one day in the future 9/11 will be just another day on the calendar, like the anniversary of the pearl harbor attacks, but those of us who survived the attacks—all of us, new yorkers and americans all around the country—would always remember.
i can’t help but think that he’s completely right. those of us with remembrance of that day cannot, by virtue of its magnitude, forget.
i am not a new yorker. i only knew the twin towers as buildings in a far away town. no one i know works at the pentagon. i make no claim on the brave passengers of flight 93.
yet, 9/11 was profound for me, a simple girl from texas, particularly because of who i was and what i was doing at the time.
i was in the third week of my first semester of college. i was eighteen years old, hadn’t a worry in the world, and felt secure in and hopeful for my future.
the day began as any other: get up, caffeinate, drive to school, survive math class.
i remember the walk between classes that day. my campus was lovely—green and lush with idyllic little birds twittering idyllic little songs. the sun was shining and the air held the promise of fall. in short, it was beautiful.
as i entered my government classroom, excited to see my new friends and find out what they did over the weekend, glad to be free of math class and floating on the loveliness of the day, i noticed a palpable tension. this didn’t feel like my government class; no one was talking, laughing or making noise. the projector screen at the front of the lecture hall was on—a building billowing smoke imaged there. i assumed we were watching some sort of video that day, plopped my bag on the floor and took my favorite seat. i leaned over to a friend, walter, and asked “what’s going on? what are we watching?”
walter’s face spoke volumes. before anyone could brief me, dr. king, our zany and strictly anti-cell phone professor, announced in a shaky voice that she would lift her cell phone policy for the day if anyone needed to make a call. something was definitely wrong.
the rest of the day is a series of flashbulb memories—somehow getting to my car and getting on the highway only to find it gridlocked, tearful telephone conversations with family, a familiar radio show being my only tether to the “normal” world, the family huddled in the living room watching president bush’s speech.
that day, my innocent, care-free life had been markedly changed.
suddenly, life was being defined as pre-9/11 or post-. for me, this also marked a transition in my life: childhood to adulthood. i was an eighteen year old child when i woke up and drove to campus that morning. when i went to bed that night, ready or not, i was an adult, robbed of my innocence and forced to deal with the very real and brutal truths of life.
in the ten years since the attack, i’ve marked the anniversary quietly, reverently—always a little guarded, a little hesitant.
this one is different. my usually mild trepidation has turned into fear. it came earlier this year as well. rather than being a fleeting “9/11 is coming up” thought, my mind seems to have zeroed in and begun a countdown—as if i’m fearful for what transition might occur next.
perhaps it is seeing my students—my carefree, innocent, hopeful students—that makes me remember how my worldview shifted that day. i was like them, and in the minutes after the attacks, i wasn’t.
i don’t know that we’ll ever make sense of this tragedy, nor do i think we should necessarily try. it is what it is, in a way. i only hope that one day we can figure out why people can’t get along—can’t see eye to eye about anything. until then, i hope those of us who lived through the day will take the time to remember. i certainly will.