Ten years ago I remember starting the day as any other normal day. My new roommate, who had just transferred from NYU, had turned on the Today Show as we were getting ready to go to classes. All three of us were in some various state of getting ready for the day, because as college students, our classes naturally didn't start till 10am. I happened to be in the room watching the live view as they reported on the crash into the first tower when all of the sudden the second plane crashed into the second tower. I remember gasping out loud, not believing my eyes, but having to tear them away to go to class. An hour and half later, leaving class, I heard reports that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon and then shortly thereafter, the news that a flight had crashed in Pennsylvania and that it might have been related to the earlier attacks of the day. I remember going home and being glued to the television, watching the towers collapsing and all the coverage related to it, shocked beyond belief, not believing what my eyes were showing me. I remember watching Tony Blair give a speech with such eloquence and poignancy that perfectly captured the feelings swirling around the day and then being disappointed when our own president lacked the same elocution. I remember talking to my parents, particularly my father who got upset with me, because there were already talks on that day of launching attacks against Afghanistan and I was upset about all the impending loss of innocent lives that would result out of those and my dad being upset with me for being against those airstrikes. I remember watching Arabs in the Middle East celebrate at the loss of American life and being deeply saddened and incredulous. I remember one of my foreign affairs professors who didn't cancel class - it was his way of not giving in to the terrorists (truly, he said as much when I stopped by earlier in the day to see if class was still going to happen) - and instead we sat for an hour and half in the afternoon talking about the attacks, their implications, and remembrances of prior attacks of terror worldwide. And I remember watching an entire Congress come and stand on the steps of the Capital and sing "God Bless America", unified.
Yet I can't remember too clearly what life was like pre-9/11. I don't remember being able to fly without having to go through security. I can't hardly remember what life was like without reports of soldiers or civilians dying each day as it is numbing to hear and so far away removed that it is almost impossible to understand from a daily life perspective. I can't remember a life without living under the constant threat of an attack from somewhere and yet living life in spite of that reality, visiting DC and NYC with a thin undercurrent of fear. Same with flying - knowing that a plane you're on could be a weapon - or traveling of any kind for that matter - the world becomes an imminently dangerous place with innocent tools or modes of transportation being transformed into weapons of mass destruction. I do remember that up to that point, our biggest foreign policy risk and potential threat of war came from China. Yet four planes changed an entire foreign policy in an instant.
Post 9/11 I remember the economy collapsing - and arguably is still on the brink ten years later. I remember my beloved Yankees making it all the way to the World Series, an entire city rallying around them, only to lose to the Arizona Diamondbacks (a loss I will never forget). I remember the Dixie Chicks career ending after Natalie Merchant said derogatory remarks about President Bush, while Toby Keith flourished singing songs about America kicking ass. I remember the all too brief months of unity as a country. I remember the war on terror starting in October, with airstrikes in Afghanistan and rumblings beginning not soon there after of attacks to begin in Iraq, and knowing that we were in for a long-term affair.
And today, and over the course of the weekend, as I watched other Americans remember this day, a mere ten years later, the tears fall for the loss incurred, for the bravery of those who tried to save others and lost their lives in the process, and for those who now fight still on our behalf, keeping our shores safe from catastrophic acts of violence, as well as for those civilians on the other side of the world who have lost loved ones because of our acts of violence. The images broadcast in all the televised events of memorials and remembrances of that day's events bring back a flood of memories and remind me it is a day that will not fade away in my memory anytime soon.