Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago

When asked where I was 10 years ago on 9/11/2001, I have two answers. One is flippant and snarky, and the other is so honest it takes too long to tell. Out of respect, I’ll try not to use the snark that lurks even in the honest answer.
I first heard about what was believed to be a small, private aircraft accidentally bumping into the World Trade Center while I was in my car, driving to my morning class. It was one of those morning radio shows that is obnoxious but helped to keep me awake. I am not a morning person. My commute was an hour long, and I must have been at least halfway there, running late as usual. The announcers were laughing about the pilot needing a guiding light, etc. Then there were rumors that it might be an attack, but I didn’t believe it. In fact, I thought the whole thing was a morning show prank. I parked in the student lot, caught the bus up to campus, and went to class, and somewhere in there the second plane hit the other tower.

At this point, I have to say my class was in Middle Eastern Studies, specifically Israel and Palestine. There were Arabs, Jews, Palestinians, and more typical Arkansas natives in the class. The topic of the towers went strong and the teacher, a graduate student, finally gave up and let us go about halfway through class. It was interesting in how we were fairly united in horror at the idea of it possibly being a terrorist attack. We went back and forth whether or not it was domestic in origin, or an anti-US faction from another country.

I wandered over to the student union, to the glassy bridge where there was sure to be a giant TV turned on. There were students of all types in there, from all over the world. We all whispered together, to each other, sharing the same worry and fear about such an awful thing.

Here’s where I confess to my inner snark requesting a voice – at that point, I still didn’t think it was serious. Really. I didn’t see why people didn’t just vacate the building. I mean, sheesh, there was smoke and flame, but I was certain I would have gotten out. I couldn’t believe my eyes, seeing the specks falling from the towers that were people jumping. It was so awful that I couldn’t grasp the reality and let the snarky part of my brain take over.

Then the first tower collapsed. Suddenly, as if someone were standing on a podium directing, everyone started separating into little insular groups. The women with hijabs, the men, the women, all moved into little pockets that could have represented each culture, country, race. I was shocked at how complete the separation was. People were glaring at each other. It was very quiet in the room, and it felt hostile and full of fear.

The second tower fell, and I realized I was standing all alone.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know why, but other than the first anniversary, this one has been most striking. Thanks for the beautiful post. You saw in those moments what America became in a very short time.