Today is the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. I think there are days in all of our lives that are so deeply etched in our memories that we can't possibly forget. 9/11 is one of those days for me.
I was 20. A junior in college. I got back to my apartment after class, flipped on the tv out of habit, and went to the kitchen and got a bowl of cereal. Cheerios. I walked back into the living just in time to see the second tower fall. Then the Pentagon. Then Shanksville, PA. I got my roommate out of bed. We sat on the couch and cried. A few months later that same friend saved up some money and we hopped on a bus and headed to New York City. We needed to see it for ourselves.
Classes were cancelled for the rest of the day. There was confusion. A friend was in panic mode because her dad worked at the Pentagon (thankfully, he was fine). I remember the line (and the price gouging) at the gas station. I was an adult. But I was a kid. And I wanted to hear my mom's voice and know for sure that my family was ok. I wouldn't get through on a cell or land line until the next day. In the days that followed friends who were in the National Guard or the Reserves were called up and deployed. It was surreal.
I grew up a lot that day and in the days that followed. In many ways, that day shaped who I am as an adult.
Fifteen years later so much time has passed, but yet it seems to stand still. On Friday I stood in front of my students, college Juniors. The same age that I was when it happened. It quickly became apparent that, while they were alive when 9/11 happened, they didn't live it. It took me a bit to wrap my brain around this.
In the days that followed 9/11 the United States was more united than it had ever been (in my lifetime at least). Political party didn't matter. Or religion. Or gender. Or income. Or where you lived. Or your education level. Or anything else. We were Americans. Terrorists attacked us on our soil. And we were going to go and kick their asses, even if it wasn't yet clear who "they" were.
I miss that unity.