Sunday, 11 September 2011

Where I Was

I'm not one to get into the politics of what happened on 9/11.  I'm not one to argue who executed the attack or the reasons behind it.  I do, however, feel that that day shaped me in an important way.  Here's the story of where I was.

On September 11th, 2001, I was in my first year of university.  It was a Tuesday.  Classes had started the previous Thursday.  It was my second day of riding the bus in the city.  The day before, when I boarded a city bus for the first time, the doors opened and I looked nervously at the bus driver.  "Will this bus take me to campus?"  "Sure will, hop on."  I was lucky to have a super nice bus driver who told me about some other routes that I could take, which stops to look out for, and how to read the bus schedule.  On the second day, the Tuesday, of riding the bus I got on with confidence and sat at the front.  The bus was pretty much empty except for me and the friendly bus driver.

We chatted a bit, and then he said what I'll never forget - "Huh.  A plane crashed into the World Trade Center."  He had one ear bud in and was listening to the radio.  We both kind of mused on how strange that was, what a terrible accident, what could have happened?  That was when he said, "Another plane just crashed."  Clearly, something was very, very wrong.

I arrived at campus to find things abuzz with confusion.  An old TV had been moved into the living room at school so everyone could watch the grainy footage.  I remember my class started at 10:00 - it was French.  We did the best we could to just get through the 2 hour class with some degree of normalcy since no one knew what was really going on.

At 12:00 my class ended, and I found myself sitting in the living room at school with some girls I'd never met watching the footage.  I remained close friends with those girls through my four years of university.

I made the usual phones calls, to my mom, to my boyfriend.  Everyone was in the same state of "What the hell is going on?  Should we still be here?  Should we be evacuating cities?"

At 2:00 I had another class - introduction to sociology.

It was a large class for that school - probably 80 girls.  For two hours we didn't talk about what we would learn that coming semester, we discussed what was happening.  We debated and discussed the state of the world, the image of the United States, their sense of invincibility.  All sides were debated.  It remains one of the most engaging discussions I've ever had.

After classes that day, I remember walking down to Chapters to pick up one of the special commemorative newspapers chronicling the events of that day.

Today, 10 years later, I can't say I'm caught up in the nostalgia.  I'm not watching the documentaries, I have no interest in deconstructing the day or in feeling sad.  It was an awful attack, for sure.  But awful things happen somewhere in the world every day with no fanfare.  Like I said, September 11th, 2001 will always be an important day for me, but for other reasons.  On that day, I became friends with people I may have never met otherwise.  I heard Muslim girls explain the prejudices they already had to deal with, with no idea of what was to come.  I felt, for the first time, like I was an adult.

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