Monday, September 11, 2006

A Day That Shall Live in Infamy

The 20th century was a very eventful period in our country. Women gained the right to vote. The US participated in 2 world wars, along with a few more wars and a “conflict”.
We started driving cars, which led to the creation of the interstate highway system. We sent a man to space, and he walked on the surface of the moon. We also saw space shuttles that didn’t complete their mission, like the Challenger explosion on my birthday.
We started living longer. We had the British Invasion and the birth of Rock and Roll. A beloved president was assassinated. We also saw advances in human rights in the form of the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panther Party, LULAC, NAACP, National Urban League, United Farm Workers, labor unions, and more.

I was privileged to grow up in the latter part of the past century in such a place as this. However, the beginning of the 21st century brought a change to the mindsets and actions of people around the globe. The eyes of the world were on the US on September 11, 2001. This was the first time that the US had been attacked on its own territory since Pearl Harbor. The last time there was an actual battle on American soil was during the Civil War. Some might say that we were due to have something happen in this country, because the rest of the world experienced some form of detriment at our hands throughout the 20th century and earlier. On that day, Malcolm’s words rang true. The chickens had come home to roost.

I think that any one who is old enough to remember 9-11-01 has a story to tell. My parents can recount what happened when Kennedy or MLK was assassinated, but my generation has September 11, 2001 - The day that terrorists hijacked several planes and flew into the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. There was another plane headed for an unidentified DC target that was redirected by its passengers. It crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

This is the story I will tell my children:

It was the beginning of my third year in college. I had a bad summer and the beginning of the school year didn’t seem like it was going to be any better. I remember going to the internship office that morning to see what positions were available. I walked outside the office and stood there reading a bulletin board with job postings. My friend, Shante, walked down the hall and said, “Did you hear about the plane that crashed into the mall?” I asked her which one. Our college town only had 2 malls. She said it was The Mall in Washington with the monuments and stuff. She was fuzzy on the details because someone else told her in passing. We went upstairs together to an office with a TV. We stood there watching the news with a professor, his secretary and 2-3 more students. We were all in a state of shock. It was like watching a movie and we couldn’t turn away. Somehow, we heard an announcement that classes were cancelled for the rest of the day and all the government offices were closed too. I don’t remember if it was on the news or if there was a phone call telling us to go home. Our school was in the state capital with the president’s brother down the street. There was much speculation about him being a target if someone was angry with the President.

I don’t remember how I got home. Either someone dropped me off or I rode the bus because I didn’t have a car. I went to my place and put my things down. I went upstairs to my neighbor’s apt. because he had cable and I wanted to tell him what happened. We sat in front of the TV for hours watching the coverage until he went to work. He let me stay there while he was away. I didn’t know anyone in NY at the time, but I still grieved for the children, families, and others who were directly impacted.

I must admit I had no desire to visit Ground Zero on my first trip to NY. My friend and I planned a trip to Century 21, and she told me as we were walking out of the train station that we were in the area where the World Trade Center towers formerly stood. I walked around and took pictures of the fence surrounding the gaping hole. I could not imagine the buildings that were there before. This wasn't like downtown Dallas where I was familiar with the buildings and I would know if something changed. I stood at Ground Zero feeling... empty. I didn't feel the way I thought I should feel. I didn't feel sadness or any other emotion. I just wanted to go inside Century 21. I don't think I've ever admitted that to anyone before.

There's hope
It doesn't cost a thing to smile
You don't have to pay to laugh
You better thank God for that
- India Arie

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
- The Beatles


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