Now that it’s been 12 years since the tragic terrorist attacks in Manhattan, Washington, DC and western Pennsylvania I have realized that officially half of my life has been lived in a post-9/11 world. From this moment onward only a fraction of my life will have been lived when Osama bin Laden, terrorist, Threat Level Orange, airport security and so many different words were just that: words.
I’m writing this while watching a replay of The Today Show in its entirety from that fateful day and every year I try to learn more and more about the event that changed the world. This year I finally finished reading the 9/11 Commission Report, devoured Manhunt, which looks at the hunt for bin Laden in the years from the attack to his ultimate demise in Abbottabad. I have countless books on my shelf waiting to be read and have already gone through so many news archives reading about the events and the aftermath.
So, where was I when I was an innocent 12-year-old? Asleep, in Arizona.
I was living in an apartment after moving back to Arizona in July after a brief stint back in Pennsylvania. Junior high school started a few weeks earlier and I already was into my normal routine. I had my group of friends, established my awful taste in clothes and had a crush on some cheerleader, I’m sure.
In September the state is three hours behind the east coast, meaning the first plane hit the WTC at 5:46am (AZ). I’m sure my mom was up and saw the news. Now, 12 years later I’m not entirely sure of the precise timeline, but at some point before school my mom woke me up for school. She simply said, “They’re attacking us.” Through the years I’ve embellished the story and would say that even though I didn’t know who was attacking us I thought to myself, “Let’s get those fuckers.” Maybe it was to sound patriotic, or maybe it was to be brave. But, quite frankly, at the time I didn’t understand that this was a big deal. I was 12. I didn’t want to be woken up early to see building collapsing. [Both towers would have collapsed before my school started at 7:40am.] Maybe I was in shock or denial. I’m not entirely sure.
By the time I got to school, I had Mr. Hales for reading first period. I can’t remember if he allowed us to have the news on in the background or he was following it on a computer. I remember his face was flushed and his eyes were shadows of their normally vibrant selves. I also remember a girl, one I had a crush on at some point throughout 7th grade, was visibly shaken. She had some relative who worked somewhere in Manhattan. My teacher allowed her to excuse herself as news rolled in.
I’m not sure if it was actually on 9/11 or a few days later, but Ms. York, my science teacher who I had after lunch at some point, didn’t teach us science but discussed the events. It had to be that day or one of the immediate days following because we were dispelling rumors or saying who we thought were behind the attacks; I’m not sure. I remember that I, trying to be some crazy conspiracy theorist, said I thought China was behind the attack. I don’t know why this sticks out in my mind, but it just goes to show how out of touch I was, and most likely so many more children were, back then. Now I feel like kids are up to date on major events. Maybe it is because of social media, but I believe it is because 9/11 changed our culture 100%
The following year I had one of my favorite teachers of all time, Ms. Morrison – now Mrs. Patterson – for language arts. In 8th grade we all had to write research papers, which I believe used to be about professions we thought we might want to be. That year, however, was on the war in Iraq. I remember talking to her about how crazy it was that two years prior none of us cared about the Middle East, now all of us students had such strong opinions on war, President Bush and terrorists. Years later, when I was an intern at the school in 2010 I spoke with her about what the research paper was now. She told me since that year the research paper has almost always been on some current event like Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti. It was almost always been on a tragedy of some sort. Yet another way 9/11 changed our culture.
There are so many more memories I could string together, but I’d want to spend a lot more time on that than just a simple blog post. But I had to get this off of my chest. I had to put some of the strongest memories down somewhere.