Next Monday will be the fifth anniversary of the national calamity that is nowadays simply known as 9/11. On that day the blogosphere will not doubt be saturated with posts about that day. So I’m going to get a jump on the crowd.
Every generation experiences a few particular moments that define themselves as pivotal to that generation because everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when they occurred. For my grandparents it was Pearl Harbor, for my parents it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and for me it was 9/11. The very fact that I don’t even have to explain what I mean by “9/11” proves my point.
What is strange to remember is how, when the news first broke that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, there was, of course, some shock, but business in the office carried on as usual. Sadly, disasters like hurricanes and plane crashes have become part of the daily fabric of our lives; we are desensitized. We feel a sense of shock, perhaps even sorrow, which is usually followed by a guilty sense of gratitude that it didn’t happen to us, and we move on to the next Sales Report.
Then the second plane hit the second tower. Only then we began to understand that one of the most tragic pieces of our nation’s history was at that very moment unfolding before our disbelieving eyes. Someone conjured a TV from out of nowhere, and by a common yet wordless consensus it was understood that no more work was to be done that day. We all stood around that TV, as it became horribly, grotesquely apparent that we were not, as it was first believed, witnessing a tragic accident, but rather a calculated terrorist attack on Americans on American soil by a group of religious fanatics who had somehow convinced themselves that God would be pleased with them for having carried out the murder of almost 3,000 innocent people.
Most of us pretty much take it for granted as we walk out the door in the morning that we will be going home at the end of the workday. Many of those victims were office workers, just like me, (which is what I was at the time). Like myself, they awoke in the morning, reluctantly dragged themselves out of bed, and tried to wake up in the shower. No doubt they then spent a bit of time in the closet pondering which suit to wear that day–important decision, that–before they once again subjected themselves to the daily, soul destroying grind of life in Cubicle-Land.
Some kissed their spouses and children goodbye. Some, no doubt, didn’t. I’m sure there were some who might have been fighting with their spouses at the time, or perhaps had reneged on a promise to their children to take them out for ice cream the night before. Like all of us, they believed in the power of Tomorrow. Tomorrow to make up with the spouse, tomorrow to take the kids out for ice cream, tomorrow to make right the wrongs of today. And so they went to work for what would be the very last time, not knowing that they had run out of tomorrows.
9/11 changed everything, from worldwide interests all the way down to the individual concerns of us all. In this country, patriotism once again became fashionable in way that it hadn’t been in fifty years. Two governments were toppled as a direct result, resulting in yet more loss of life beyond the 2,996 lives lost that day. An embattled President became, for a moment, popular.
While I was one of the fortunate ones who did not lose anyone that day, my life has not escaped its effect. My 18 year old son decided that he wanted to serve his country in this volatile time, and is now stationed in Iraq. I keep thinking that perhaps with the passage of time I will simply grow numb to this and stop worrying about him, but I never do.
And on a (perhaps) more mundane note, from that day onward I have been forced to come to terms with the fact that I could be taken from my loved ones at any time, or they from me. Yes, I suppose I still take tomorrow for granted, but not quite so much as before. For I do not want to part company from my wife in anger, and run the risk of never being able to tell her that I love her, and that whatever it was we were fighting about is unimportant compared to the life we share together. If I am taken from her, or she from me, I want her to know that she was loved and cherished. I do not want either of us to have to go through whatever tomorrows we have left wishing that we had said “I love you” one last time.