No, I haven’t forgotten what day today is, or what happened on this day 5 years ago. It’s still a touchy subject with me, though. Last night I was listening to talk radio (96.9 FM WTKK in Boston, if you want to know) and they played some clips from 9/11. I’m not afraid to say that it brought me near to tears. Traumatic memories don’t become less traumatic with the passage of time – not for me, at least.
I still remember what I was doing on this day 5 years ago. It’s as clear as day to me, even now, and even with my notoriously bad memory. I haven’t made a post on this day since I started this blog in 2003, but after 5 years I think it’s time. Let me share the story with you…
My allergies were acting up pretty badly that day, so I had taken some Benadryl to help stop my runny nose and watery eyes. Of course, Benadryl makes me very groggy, but at the time I was working at a computer store called ACME, and being that it was a small shop, nobody would mind if I was a bit slow. I was working on the store’s old server, trying to re-configure its array of SCSI drives and re-install Windows 2000 Small Business Server. Then, one of the other techs called in to say that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. At first, I thought it was a joke. Then, our salesperson called us over and showed us some images on his computer, and we began to realize it was real. At this point, I thought it was a terrible accident – after all, I remembered that a plane had once crashed into the Empire State Building many, many years ago. So I didn’t give it much thought – I had a server to repair, and this was just more “bad news” story that the news media were famous for.
But then we started to notice that all the major news sites – including CNN.com – were slowing down, and updating quite a lot. As if many people were interested in this story. So many people that they were effectively stopping some of the biggest news sites on the Internet. I started to hear the word “terrorist” thrown around about that time, though the meaning of that word didn’t really sink in until later.
Eventually our salesperson left to go home. Even the owner of the store went home – but I, in my groggy state, just stayed working on the server for a bit longer. Eventually, though, I left and went up the street to the owner’s house to watch the news coverage on his big-screen TV. At this point, things were starting to feel like a major disaster, rather than just an unfortunate accident.
I can remember clearly watching the TV pictures change suddenly as the cameras caught the second plane as it flew into the World Trade Center. I don’t need to watch videos of it on the Internet – the picture in my mind is as clear as day, and, I think, it always will be.
We all just sat around that day watching the news, not really talking much. After the towers collapsed, I guess I figured there wasn’t much else to see, and I went home. I just was in shock, and the Benadryl wasn’t helping. Later that night, Amanda called me from Australia to make sure I was OK. That was when I realized this wasn’t just an American disaster – it was something that touched the entire world.
It’s worth noting that I never felt “scared” or “terrified” at any point during all this, or afterwards. Outrage, sure, and plenty of anger – but never terror. Since causing terror is the aim of terrorism, I like to think that the terrorists failed in their attempt that day – at least with me.
Unfortunately, I have not had reason to fly anywhere since then – though I wish I had. I would get on a plane without a second’s hesitation. Amanda has flown down to New Jersey where her company’s main office is many times since then, and although she doesn’t like the small planes she has to take (more turbulence in small planes, you see), she’s never been “afraid” to fly, and I have never been afraid for her. She’s even done the long-haul flights back to Australia – which involves flying from Boston to LAX – the very same flight route that American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175 were on.
I’ve watched – and commented frequently here on my blog – as security restrictions were put into effect. I can honestly say that none of them have ever made me feel any “safer.” Of course, this is because I never felt threatened in the first place. I still regard the vast majority of them as useless – or in some more recent cases, worse than useless.
I think invading Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree, Iraq, were good moves from a security standpoint. But I don’t like the “reasons” that were publicly issued to explain those invasions. We’ve got nations full of people who hate us enough to take terrible actions against us and – most importantly – against our civilians. In the past we might have simply shrugged and asked them politely to not attack us, but it seems fair to say that this “enemy,” however nebulously defined, is unwilling to compromise, and completely unwilling to listen to anything we have to say. So it would be utterly foolish of us not to take action in our own defense. We have to be a bit more proactive, a bit more cautious in our dealings with such people. To say that we are doing these things for any other reason, however, is to dishonor the memories of those who died, on this day, five years ago – September 11th, 2001.
No, I will never forget – and I will never be afraid, either.