I had no idea that that day my junior year of high school would be any different when I stepped off the bus. But when I got to my physics class, my life changed…
The world changed.
I remember the teacher turning on the television. At first I didn’t understand what was happening. One of the twin towers in New York, which I had just visited for the first time just two years earlier, had black smoke billowing from it, a gaping whole in its side.
We listened and realized in horror that a plane had flown directly into the skyscraper… an attack on America, on our way of life, on innocent people. We watched as another plane flew into the other tower. Then my teacher turned off the TV.
In my next class, we watched a little more as the towers collapsed. Some teachers stopped teaching for the day to talk about the events. Others pushed aside the attacks, presumably to help protect us and instill some sort of normalcy.
But it didn’t feel normal.
Later that evening, we heard explosions in the sky. My family and all the neighbors rushed out into the street, thinking that we, too, were under attack. Somehow, we figured out that they were sonic booms from the fighter jets leaving Wright Patt Air Force Base to accompany Air Force One.
18 years later
Looking back now, remembering 9/11, I realize I had not thought much of terrorism before that day. I was happy and naive, in my little corner of conservative Ohio. I was sheltered.
But since then, fear has been a constant, regular part of daily life in America.
Of everything. In that aspect, the terrorists won. Our fear overwhelms us and we are turning on each other instead of standing together.
We fear each other.
We’re afraid of our differences. When other people knock on our doors, we don’t answer them. And I mean both as individual people and as a country. We’re turning our back on people who might need help.
Personally, I’m afraid of the future. I’m afraid of fascist governments and of climate change. I certainly fear that one day, we won’t be able to turn it back… that it will be too late.
What about our children?
But I fear that it may be too late. Their world might be the one in which everything collapses–that nothing is sustainable anymore.
Because, always, if you bend something too far, it will snap. It has to, in order to restore equilibrium.
Will my sons see the world roast? Will they be starving and dying of thirst because the generations before us messed it up for them?
I paint a grim picture.
But something in our world is going to give.
As I sit here remembering 9/11, most of all I remember our fear that has never left us. That day left a deep, open wound in our collective soul, and America has not yet healed.
For the sake of our children, can we please start to look at each other and see our similarities instead of our differences?
Can we look upon the future, not with fear or trying to squeeze every last drop of money out of the world, but of compassion and objectivity?
I don’t know if we can, but I will certainly try.