Friday, September 11, 2009

september 11, 2001

in the early morning of september 11, 2001, i was merely a naive, 16 year old girl enjoying my junior year of high school. i woke up that morning looking forward to a field hockey game that day and getting to see my boyfriend after school. i drove to school on autopilot, trying to wake up with my ritual morning can of diet dr. pepper. i went to homeroom and then on to my first period class, just like any other day, so i thought...

i was carefree and happy, and why not? i had few worries in life, and most of them included silly things like bad hair days and trying to fit in. i had never before had a reason to think twice about stepping on a plane or worried about going to a public place like the mall. i had never even heard the words "taliban" or "al-qaeda" muttered. i had traveled to france a few months prior and felt like i had a good grip on the world and other cultures. i didn't know anyone resented america or what we stand for. in fact, i probably had rarely even thought much about what we stood for. i remembered seeing yellow ribbons tied around trees when i was younger to symbolize soldiers that were missed, but i had never missed a solider myself. i had not visited new york city, and didn't know what the world trade center was or looked like. the only knowledge i had about new york city's firefighters were what i found in their annual calendar that i looked forward to thumbing through each year. i had never seen a map of afghanistan or pondered what it would have been like to live in that country under an oppressive regime. i was desperately naive, but most of that changed on the morning of september 11, 2001.

i had just switched classes from 1st period to 2nd, when i entered dr. shoemaker's bible class. he had been told to turn the tv on because something big was going on in new york. i honestly thought it was an object lesson of some sort, just to scare us into reading our bibles more and making better decisions. we turned on the tv just in time to watch in horror as the 2nd plane hit the south tower of the world trade center. i still wasn't sure what i was watching was real. i kept waiting for dr. shoemaker to laugh and turn off the dvd, but that never happened. over the next several minutes, i realized this was no joke and an array of emotions washed over me. i was freaked out to say the least. i was shocked that this was really happening, and in america of all places! weren't we supposed to be invincible or something?!? i was so confused as to why someone would hate america enough to orchestrate such a thing.

the rest of the day was a blur. i remember sitting in the auditorium for a while praying as we watched the news coverage unfolding. the more i watched, the larger the lump in my throat felt. i prayed, i cried, i prayed some more and i cried some more. i just wanted to be home. when i got home, i remember my dad coming home early from work and my family being together. our priorities changed instantly. the american flag that my dad flew fairly often became a mainstay on our front porch. the trash tv that i watched regularly, was turned off. the upbeat music that i blared in my radio, was changed to something softer and more meaningful. our family talked about our feelings and shared openly about the confusion and sorrow. we prayed together, and felt God's hand of comfort amidst the confusion. we pulled together, and so did our country.

the details continued to unfold, and we all become more than familiar with the words "terrorist attack". we soon saw pictures flashed from far away places of men in turbans and long beards celebrating as the towers fell. names like "osama bin laden" were being uttered for the first time from many lips. flying on an airplane became a source of fear for many, even those who used to fly regularly. confusion and fear were running rampant. however, through it all, the american people stood changed. while american flags apparel had seemed so 90's before, it became a fashion staple. cars were adorned with bumper stickers and signs showing support for our country, our President and our troops. neighbors said "hello" to each other for the first time in years. our communities pulled together and sent help to the site of the attacks for clean up efforts. organizations focused attention on far away countries, like afghanistan and iraq, where most have suffered more than the average american can imagine. people started filling pews in churches that had been abandoned for a long time.

september 11, 2001 and its aftermath changed all americans, myself included: i am no longer that naive, 16 year old girl. i still wonder when i get on a plane if i'll get off again. fearful thoughts occasionally creep into my mind when i'm in a large crowd. i've seen the affects of the taliban's regime of terror firsthand. i know the impact war has on soldiers and their families. i am proud when i go to the polls to cast my ballot because i know in many places women cannot. i understand why america's freedoms are so special. i know many are out to harm our country but that we must not let it cripple us.

however, were those changes permanent? today i worry about whether or not many of the changes made, both individually and as a country, on september 11, 2001 are sticking. we must never begin to think that we are invincible. we must never begin to think that we deserve more rights than people in other countries. we must never forget those who gave their lives for the protection of others. we must never forget the suffering going on in far away places. we must never forget the One who lifted us up when we were in despair. we must never forget september 11, 2001. we must never be unchanged again.