"Where were you on 9/11?"
Whenever I hear that question asked, my mind reads it in Larry King's voice. For years after the tragic events, he would seemingly ask every guest that question at some point on his show. It wasn't unusual. For years, the terrorist attacks dominated a lot of American thoughts. Phrases like "Since 9/11" and "the post-9/11 world" were peppered throughout every news broadcast. Some call that "the terrorists winning." I call it "human nature."
To answer Larry's question, I was at home. On the couch. Sleeping. I had graduated from high school that Spring and was "taking a year off." That year lasted until the Fall of 2003 after finding a fun way to make some money, but there I was. Like many, I had first thought of that small plane that crashed into the Empire State Building in the 1940s. It had to be an accident. Pilot confusion. The thought that it was a clear day didn't enter my mind...until the second one hit on live TV before my eyes.
The night before it had been business as normal. I was up late, chatting with a female friend from high school on the "social media" of that time--AOL Instant Messenger. I probably made a little meal (my eating habits were way off-base then) and planned my day for Tuesday. A haircut and Denny's (a coupon, don't you know...) were on tap. Neither ended up happening, but not due to the tragedies. A dead car battery altered my own plans. I still remember waiting on my battery to be replaced. A television was on, switched to CNN, in the waiting room. They were airing some sort of shelling going on in the Middle East. A chubby, middle-aged woman also sitting in the room started cheering. I knew that what we were seeing had little to do with the events of the day, but I guess it provided a bit of hope. I was hopeless.
To my knowledge, I didn't know anyone who was directly affected by losing a friend or family member. I do know that it changed me. I had yet to experience much personal tragedy whatsoever, so a perceived change in the American way of life was the closest thing. For years when hearing a plane above, I would locate it with my eyes to make sure that it wasn't veering suspiciously. When approaching my home city by car, I would scan the skyline. Until my own first, life-jarring loss six years later, the 9/11 memories lingered.
Every year around this time, I go back, watch videos, and read stories. No one wants to relive it, but it's a part of our history that shouldn't be forgotten. Scarily enough, we now have young adults who don't even remember the day by their own memories.
I often think about how advanced we felt we were in 2001, yet by comparison to today it was almost the stone age. Can you imagine if 9/11 had happened in the era of Facebook and Twitter? Cell phones were catching on fast, but there were few if any camera phones. I've often wondered just what different glimpses we would have of the events of that day had today's non-stop picture snapping culture been prevalent.
Next year, the remembrances and media will likely be heavy for the 15th anniversary. This year, aside from a few cable TV specials and day-of news coverage, will probably be quiet. That's why I chose now to formulate my own remembrance. It's the Pearl Harbor or 11/22/63 of my generation. The type of history that we hope never gains another comparison.