As someone who was born after the Kennedy assassination, I grew up hearing adults tell me that they “remembered where they were” when President Kennedy was shot. As I grew up, I had several memories that I thought might fit that bill; i.e., be of such great importance that I remembered everything around the event.
In actuality, the only event that has held that important status in my mind is 9/11.
I was a second year law student, fresh off of summer break and a month in to classes. I recall coming out of my 8:00 a.m. class at 9:15, and the law school lounge room was overflowing. It wasn’t a huge room, but could fit about 50. There was an older television in the room, and I remember making my way into the room while asking people around me what had happened. No one could give an answer, and they sort of moved out of the way to let me glean the information on my own.
The first tower was smoldering, and the news was chaotically reporting several different stories of what possibly happened (pilot error, terrorism, etc.). That, plus the conversation of everyone in the room, created a buzzing in my head that cancelled out most of the noise. I remember looking at a woman next to me that I vaguely knew; a year ahead of me as I recalled. She was on the verge of tears, and we leaned against each other in an odd way, giving some strange comfort although there wasn’t much to say. I remember thinking after the fact that she was so overcome with emotion and I, in contrast, didn’t have any sharp feeling.
As I watched the news coverage, and read the crawls across the screen, the haunting live shot of the second plane’s impact played on the screen in real time. The room offered a collective gasp. The woman next to me started bawling.
Later, reading an article called “the Falling Man”, by Tom Junod in Esquire, I remembered watching a few people jumping from the building on the news coverage. I don’t think that there will ever be any image that could be more horrific than watching someone choose suicide over the horror that was inevitably on its way.
I remember numbly making my way out of the school, going home and just turning the television on for comfort. I didn’t really sit in front of it because I was afraid I would see something else as horrible as the morning’s events. I couldn’t elect to not have the t.v. on, but I went about my normal routine with it on, trying to create a little normalcy. I called my one friend in NYC, and the phones were obviously busy.
What does it mean today? I wish I could say that some American unity and sense of purpose rose out of that horrible tragedy, but I can’t say that.
The Afghani “conflict” is a mess, abandoned by our leaders.
Operation Iraqi Freedom was a sham; with all of our political leaders using the emotion of 9/11 to create momentum toward war. Now, nine years later, both of those theatres of war are unfinished and either worse off or no different than before. Americans have died in the spirit of 9/11, and I am not so certain that they should have.
The legacy of 9/11 for me, unfortunately, is fear. Fear is the currency that our government wields as its primary weapon of persuasion. Fear is what the hollow and sensationalist media uses to keep “Joe Sixpack” (ugh, I hate that) in a constant state of froth, distracting them from the real agendas of the day.
Fear is the tool that allows those in power to boil down complex and nuanced issues to their most base, and ultimately incomplete, elements.
I hope that you each, as readers, or clients of mine, realize that you don’t have to fear everything in front of you that you might not totally understand. There are plenty of things that I don’t know much about in this complex world. When some media talking head throws out an outlandish statement about one of those things, I typically reserve judgment until I can do some investigating on my own. The last thing I do is become afraid.
Let me know your thoughts on 9/11, and what it means to you.