9/11, Twenty Years Later

Twenty years.  It’s a lifetime for some of us. Twenty years ago I was 34. Twenty years before that I was a teenager. Twenty years before that I wasn’t even on my mother or father’s radar. Twenty years is a long time. In twenty years, perceptions and politics can change. But some memories? They remain. This date, September 11, is burned into my brain. I remember everything that happened that day. I’ll never forget it. How can I? 

In September 2001, I was living in Marcellus, NY with my then girlfriend and now wife, Dawn. I was unemployed, my job moved to Rochester and I had no desire to move there. Dawn was working at an assisted living home, and I was focusing on making my garage band something more than an opener getting paid with free beer. 

I spent a ton of time online in a yahoo chat group called ASK A WITCH. When Dawn would go to work in the morning, I would drive her in, come home and job hunt. This Tuesday morning, I went to the AAW chat room when I got back, after checking my email. It was around 8:45 in the morning. We didn’t have email on our phones or facebook back then, kids. Heck, this was pre-MySpace and I was tethered to a Desktop and tower.

My friend Carrie, aka Cryptic Wolf, was the first person I saw come into the room, a few minutes later. I looked at my clock.  It said 8:56 am.

“Are you watching the news?” She said, I told her no. Then she spilled the news to all of us. One of the Twin Towers was on fire. I turned on my TV, Good Morning America hit my screen. There it was, live from a distant camera, the Twin Towers standing tall above the NY skyline. And one had smoke billowing out from it. 

The clock on the TV, embedded with the GMA Logo, clicked to 9:00. The minutes crept by. 9:01. At 9:02 I saw what I believed to be a plane circling around, flying by to inspect the fire. 

At 9:03 I learned how wrong I was in my assumption. I watched another plane slam into the second tower and disappear in a fiery explosion. I stood, catatonic, unable to do anything except watch and listen. The sound of yahoo instant messenger on my computer beeping broke me from my trance. 

Thus began a day filled with paranoia, fear, and righteous patriotism. Dawn and her co-workers learned what happened as they made their morning rounds, we spoke on the phone shortly after. I followed the news on all 3 networks on TV, and on the internet. As the morning progressed, the towers fell, and we learned about Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda. 

Terrorism. By 19 foreign nationals on American soil. On a level unheard of. Strikes in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washingston. Back then I was filled with righteous anger toward the Middle Eastern terrorists who dared bring their war to my country. It created our Big Brother world of today. Orwell did say we’d invite them in, and we did so under the guise of the War on Terror. A 20 year conflict we just pulled out of. 

Now? I’m tired of war.

As I’ve grown, and become more learned, I’ve come to understand it’s just history repeating itself. For eons there has been a long standing culture war between Europeans and Persians. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why such a miserable place like the middle-east is fought over like the last donut at a State Trooper convention. There’s some irony, I think, to this also being the anniversary of the end of the Battles of Thermopylae and Artemision, the war that determined the fate of Europe as we know it, so many thousands of years ago. Ever since, it’s been non-stop, regardless of religious beliefs. 

9/11 was my generation’s November 22nd, or January 6th, respectively depending if you’re a boomer, or a millennial. A day I’ll never forget.

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