It’s that time of year again. September comes and goes each year, but it still does not seem possible that it has been 12 years. Do you remember?
If you are a typical ISU student, then you were likely in elementary school in 2001. What do you remember of that day? Do you remember the images on television, or perhaps the reactions of family and friends? Do you remember your parents trying to explain to you what was going on? Do you recall how you felt about all of this?
If you are a GenXer like myself, then 9/11 may invoke slightly different memories. We weren’t the first generation of young adults to face such tragedy, and it isn’t likely that we will be the last. We do, however, hold the distinction of being one of the first groups of young people to watch the entirety of a world-changing tragedy play out on live TV. Our constant exposure and instant access to these images continues to keep that day fresh in the minds and hearts of people of all ages.
On September 11, 2001, I was in my senior year of college at Southern Illinois University. I was up early, watching “Good Morning America” as I got ready for work. When they broke in with breaking news of a plane crash in Manhattan, it caught my attention immediately. I continued watching live as the second plane hit the next tower. My most overpowering memory of that day is the shock, fear, and grief that immediately overwhelmed me at that moment. At that instant, we all knew that this was no accident, and that the United States was under attack. Reports started coming in of some sort of plane crash in a field somewhere, and the news of an incident at the Pentagon spread. It just seemed surreal. Who was next? How many more planes were out there?
The day was filled with TV watching. Every channel on our cable lineup was carrying coverage of 9/11. There were no reruns of MASH and Law & Order on the cable networks after class that afternoon. Most broadcast and cable networks were showing footage of the plane smashing into the building, people jumping to their deaths, and the towers falling. They showed these images on a constant loop for what seemed like days, until the images were burned into our minds.
The radio stations stopped playing music, and instead took calls from listeners who wanted to talk about what was going on. There were lines around the block at every gas station in town as drivers rushed to fill their tanks. Impromptu prayer vigils and church services were held that evening, and our campus was eerily quiet. All commercial and private planes were grounded, but the occasional aircraft, which we all assumed was military, would fly over our campus. It was terrifying.
Now that I am a parent, I try to put on a brave face each September when my kids come to me with questions about that day. My 10-year-old son started talking about 9/11 at school when he was about 7 or 8 years old. Over the past few years we have had some long discussions about what happened. My husband and I do our best to answer his “who, what, when, how, and where” questions but the “why” questions, despite our best efforts, often remain unanswered. What can you say?
Do you have memories of 9/11 you’d like to share? Feel free to post a comment below or tweet me at @thamra with your comments!