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9/11, 20 Years Later: A Reverie

When just another Tuesday turned into one of the great tragedies of my generation.

Featured image via PublicDomainPictures | Petr Kratochvil

There are so few times when we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are living through history. These moments become fixed points in our personal timelines and it’s hard to even remember a time when it wasn’t ever-present. For many in the States, September 11th, 2001 is one such day. You can ask anyone over a certain age about what they were doing and they can recall it in full detail.

For me, I was in my 12th year of school, about to graduate and move on to University the following year. When I woke up that morning, it was just another Tuesday. I remember getting dressed, crying because I was tired, pretending to eat breakfast, and then stopping dead mid-step at the sight of the TV. We were watching an American news program called The Today Show and a tall building was on fire very high up, near the top.

It was at that moment that a plane flew into the other tower with a fiery explosion. Tears were streaming down my face because I had no idea what I had just seen.

“The WTC Smoking on 9-11”
CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

We didn’t know anyone that lived in New York. We didn’t know anyone that was in The Twin Towers and we didn’t know any of the first responders to that scene. Yet, I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what I had seen with my own eyes… there was a large part of me that felt it must have been fake. When I got to school that day, classes had taken on some strange and sad vigil. By this point, the Twin Towers had collapsed, a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and another one had crashed into a field. It was like a waking nightmare.

“Arlington, Va. (Sep. 14, 2001) — Aerial view of the destruction caused when a high-jacked commercial jet crashed into the Pentagon on Sep. 11th. The terrorist attack caused extensive damage to the Pentagon. American Airlines FLT 77 was bound for Los Angeles from Washington Dulles with 58 passengers and 6 crew. All aboard the aircraft were killed, along with 125 people in the Pentagon. U.S. Navy Photo Courtesy of DoD Photographer Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill (RELEASED)” via Flickr

The collective sadness of this tragedy is a defining point for many people my age. We are the older group of Millenials and so much has happened to us since 2001. We’ve lived through a terrorist attack, an economic recession (or two), a housing crash, the insanity of Donald Trump, and a pandemic. Despite this, many of us have fallen in love, gotten married, and started families of our own. Time and life march on despite the trauma of the past.

As a parent, I witness my children learning about my personal history as basic knowledge. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 are now part of their curriculum, they color patriotic pictures and write down basic facts. Their disconnect from the sadness actually makes me feel oddly happy. I’m happy they don’t know what a burden it is to have first-hand knowledge of something so awful. So far, they don’t know what horrors are out in the real world.

And yet, for all the sadness, all the fear, all the changes, and all the challenges that have happened since 9/11, I can’t help but wonder when things will actually change. I can’t help but wonder when humanity will get better. When we will all start making better choices?

I just can’t help but wonder.

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