Today is September 11th. Today, I remember. But really, I always remember.
11 years ago, I was a senior in high school, and I was late for my Model U.N. presidency meeting (Don't laugh. I know you were nerdy in high school, too.). My sweet dad had worked a graveyard shift all night and was still going to give me a ride to school before going to bed. I became impatient with him for taking so long and making me late for my meeting. I remember being short with him. My angry teenage attitude permeated the air in his little green Tracer.
On the way to school (about a 7-minute drive from our house), we listened to the radio. We heard that the World Trade Center in NYC had been bombed. Intrigued by the news, I A- forgot that I'd been made at my dad and B- wondered what the World Trade Center was.
When I got to Mrs. Miner's classroom (she was our M.U.N. advisor) Tommy and Patrick (they were the co-presidents, I was the VP) were already there, and Mrs. Miner had the news on. I found out it wasn't a bomb, but rather a plane that had struck the World Trade Center. There was no M.U.N. meeting that morning.
I knew many of my classmates were watching the news all day in class. My morning teachers chose not to do that. By lunchtime, the whole school knew that a second plane had struck in NYC, that the Pentagon had been hit, and I actually don't remember what time I found out about the brave heroes flying over Pennsylvania. My afternoon teachers DID let us watch the news, and I remember being in shock by what was happening on the East Coast.
In the afternoon, our principal made an announcement over the intercom that Hill Air Force Base (which was right next to our homes and our school) was on lockdown and that any parents who worked there might not be allowed to leave that night. Students were anxious and panicked.
When I got home, my dad had the news on. As my siblings got home from school and then my mom from work, we were glued to the TV. I don't remember doing anything else that afternoon. I remember watching the footage of the second plane hitting the North Tower, and thinking how surreal this all was. It honestly looked like a movie scene, and I couldn't believe it was all really happening. Then I remember feeling scared. What if they tried something again tomorrow? The Salt Lake Airport was only 30 miles away... The Ogden-Hinckley Airport was next door... And we lived right next to a United States Air Force Base! (But I thought, who would want to attack Utah, right? Right???!)
Then President Bush ordered for all planes to stop flying. The next three days taught me the meaning of the phrase "deafening silence." When we first moved to Utah in 1994, I remember being SO annoyed by all the airplanes flying above us from Hill and from the airport. They were SO loud, and they would fly over my house RIGHT when my TV show or movie was at a good part, and then I wouldn't be able to hear the funny joke, because the plans were SO LOUD! For three days after 9/11, I was able to hear every word of my TV shows and every joke in my movies, but the silence made me feel unsettled.
I remember President Hinckley (who was then the president of our church) gave an address shortly after the attacks. His words brought me comfort. (You can listen to Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.) He told us that this is "not a matter of Christian against Muslim" and reminded us to be kind to our neighbors. He put into words the uncertainty that we all felt after the attacks, but he counseled those of us who were Americans to stand with the president of our nation and gave practical advice to us as we prepared for our futures (like avoiding debt and getting out of it), along with counsel from the scriptures and a reminder of the prophecies of things to come.
Mrs. Miner's prophetic words -- that life would be measured as before 9/11 and after it -- have been proven true. (If you need a reminder, try to take your shampoo on the plane with you. Shoot, in one of the early seasons of the TV show Friends (I loved this show as a teenager. Don't judge!), Rachel goes after Ross in the airport (or maybe the other way around?) and gets to go right up to the gate. In the final season, Ross goes after Rachel... but he had to buy a plane ticket (and one for Phoebe) in order to make it past security. Even our TV characters' lives have changed!) I am almost embarrassed to admit that when I ride the metro, I often think of how easy it would be to sneak something suspicious on one of the trains... to attack the heart of our nation's capital via WMATA. But I continue to ride the metro, because if I stopped riding out of fear, then the terrorists win, and WE lose. (I always remember...)
The only good thing I remember after 09/11/01 is that our country was ONE. Only one year prior, we had been involved in a very divisive election... hanging chads and all that (does this sound familiar?), but in September of 2001, we were ONE AMERICA. How sad it is that it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to bring us together. How sad that a decade later, we are back to the partisan divisions of the past. We felt a little bit of that one-ness when Osama bin Laden was killed (it's why there were outbursts like this, where total strangers gathered together to... celebrate? ... It was such an odd night. I wasn't there so much to celebrate a man's death, but rather, to celebrate the optimism and strength of the American spirit. (More footage here. Ignore the tagline. I was neither drunk nor a teenager.))
But it makes me wonder... What will it take for us to be united again?
In conclusion, I would like to officially wish my friend MAGGIE a HAPPY BIRTHDAY today! (And a happy birthday to Steve H., Jacqueline C., and Jana B., if any of them even know I have a blog.) Because if we don't take the time to celebrate our loved ones today, then all the sacrifices and lives lost over the past 11 years will have been in vain.
Happy birthday, friends! May the good times roll. :)