Friday, September 11, 2009


On September 11, 2001 I was a junior at the University of Utah. I had been married just a few months. My wife was already at work on campus and, as I recall, called me as I was getting ready for class and told me to turn on the TV because something was going on. I turned on CNN and sat there aghast and confused. They kept saying that America is under attack. I guess we really had no idea what was going on at the time, but that phrase never sat well with me.

I remember watching live as the first tower collapsed. I was so disoriented. I had no frame of reference to understand what was going on. Pearl Harbor was way to long ago and Desert Storm was just a cool TV show for me when I was 12 years old. Seeing such a massive structure collapse and seemingly being at war on US soil was outside of every paradigm I had ever known. We grew up thinking that America was impenetrable to our enemies, that we were apart from and above the rest of the world.

I went on campus and joined the group that quietly watched the news coverage on the TV's that had been set up in the library. My work told me not to bother going in that day. It is not often that we know something will change the way we look at the world and the course of history itself, usually we can look back and identify moments in hindsight but not as they are happening, but of course this was different. Everything would be different, even when we didn't know who was doing this to us.

I'm not sure it's helpful to rehash 9/11 stories every year. Some of the legacy of 9/11 is ugly. Some people, from everywhere on the political spectrum, used it to advance political ideology and goals. We wouldn't have gone into Iraq, we wouldn't be a country that tortured, but we also would have still thought that America was impenetrable and isolated. We have been forced to become a leader on the world stage in more ways than just economic or cultural. We haven't always been the world's moral compass since then, but I still believe that America is the greatest nation on Earth.

So I guess, partly, for me, 9/11 is just as much about looking back at our failures and successes since then and committing to being better, as a nation, than it is to just rehash those awful feelings we felt as the towers fell.

1 comment:

Javelin said...

Well said.