Twin Towers, outside/inside the viewing platform, Yankee Stadium circa 1989
In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed some major shifts which changed the cultural attitudes and social structures of the world we live in today. In my lifetime, I’ve played my part remaining positive and influential to my best ability, as events unfolded and remodeled the world. In my lifetime, no singular event changed the world as drastically as those which occurred eighteen years as ago today. In my lifetime, no event stopped a nation and crippled the world as heavily as those events which took place on the morning of September 11, 2001. In my lifetime, a blip appears each year as it is one of the few major events which is marked by everyone, ten years and older at the time, knowing exactly where they were when they heard the news.
Prior to 9/11, several events in my personal timeline occurred, which caused me to take a few steps back and reflect on the change connected with those situations. My first true memory of a lifetime changing event came when I was seven and the transformation of CG into films, as Star Wars hit the market. For a seven-year-old this was big; world scale it changed the way cinematography processed scenery and developed transparent worlds and characters.
The next big lifetime change was the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, leading to the boycott of the Olympic games, as well the Iran hostage situation. The news became a daily reminder of how diplomacy had broken down on the international stage.
Nothing major affected my own selfish teenage world until the Space Shuttle catastrophe in 1986. I was sitting in my history class when the announcement was made. It still sends shivers up my spine, as once again the news media focused on the situation.
In 1989, while my college roommates were in Salzburg, Germany, they took part in the Berlin Wall takedown. Again, the news media changed the face of this event.
The tensions building in the Persian Gulf changed my late teen, early twenties generation, into believing we, as Americans, held the power to make a change over controlling tyrants in other countries. Despite the fact, these countries had fought, and continue to fight, over land and religious rights. Each of the events from the end of the Cold War to the US involvement in the Persian Gulf were calculated in the ever-growing news media market and changed the world.
In 1992, my own world witnessed its first impacting change as the Los Angeles riots broke loose. I was teaching school; my first real job, when the riots began. I was 30 miles outside of Los Angeles teaching in a predominantly African-American school. My students arrived the day after the rioting commenced and stood up to let me know I had no grounds to be their teacher, because I was blonde and white. I will never forget the fear and quiver of the young lady who stood and spoke for the 42 students in my room. The impact I made, showing my students how to research issues to find truths, will forever be burned in my mind. It was the first time I believed, down to my core, knowledge is power.
Several events reared their ugly head from time to time over the course of the next ten years, the biggest was the birth of the internet and the global impact. It transformed the entire planet into a network of easily accessible information and gave birth to a world dependent on the power of computers and intelligent communications.
Prior life-changing events had turned the heads of many, but life went on as usual. No real long-lasting impacts which modified world behaviors or drastically turned the heads of the world soliciting long-term change. Not until the morning of 9/11.
I was four weeks away from delivering the youngest member of our clan. Our eldest son, three days into starting kindergarten, middle son a few days into preschool. Tossing and turning all night, I’d left my husband to slide into our guest bedroom hoping at least one of us could sleep well. I’d fallen asleep around 5am, only to be jolted out of bed around 5:50am.
“Honey get up, a plane crashed into one of the World Trade Towers,” the shake in my husband’s voice loomed eerily. I knew by his tone I needed to see what was happening. Sitting on our bed was our oldest, bright-eyed telling me the building was on fire and pointing at the screen. Our confusion when the second plane crashed, live feed, right in front of our eyes, sent shock waves through my body. At first, I wanted to believe it was a replay of the first hit, but that was not the case. Startled out of our astonished state by the phone, I moved slowly to answer.
“Turn on the news,” My mother’s voice commanded through the receiver.
“We are watching; I can’t believe this.” I shook as I spoke. My four-year-old kept his eyes glued to the horror unraveling on the TV.
“I’m going to make some calls, but you’d better check to see if the schools are open. Oh, my God did you see that, it’s the Pentagon,” My mom shouted into the phone. I could hear my dad mumbling in the background.
“I’ll call you back.” Tears started falling as the impact of what I was witnessing crashed over me. For the first time in my life, the true impact of terror ripped through my core. We had friends who lived in New York and Washington, relative’s in multiple eastern and mid-western states. My mother-in-law was out-of-town in Colorado Springs at a medical conference. Then it hit me, we had good friends who worked in the towers. They should be at work; holy hell they could be trapped.
The first hour of information numbed me. My husband stepped carefully around me, as he was truly afraid I’d go into early labor. I tried my best to pull myself together but then the phone calls began. Friends and family worked on checking in on one another. My mother-in-law ended up stuck in Colorado for a week with flights grounded and transportation routes shut down. My parents were due to fly out for a European vacation in the 13th; the trip was canceled immediately.
For the first time in world history, the entire world shut down for days on end. For the first time in history, a crisis unfolded which impacted the world and changed the face of our enemies. For the first time in history, true terrorism reared its ugly face on a global forum, which remains scarred and broken. For the first time in history, our enemies were not those of identified governing bodies, but they were linked to those who lived among regular populations and gathered intel by using the globally accessible internet; they share information for evil rather than good. For the first time in history, our enemies could not be singularly identified, because terrorism, in its purest form, is intended to shock the masses and stun the bystanders. One singular day, four separate attempts, and the world was shaken to its core. A world which changed the way it operates because terror ruled its wicked ways. A world which still suffers the consequences of those who choose to behave in a radical selfish manner with no clear purpose toward making the world a better place.
We did witness over the course of minutes, hours, days, and months after the attacks, a sense of humanity breathing back a life of sympathy and empathy for others. People rushed forth to help the wounded and to comfort those who were left behind. Professional sports resumed and provided a common ground with which people could begin to heal. A resurgence of national pride and international relations began evolving. While we changed certain practices for transportation and safety, we began rebuilding not only a nation but a world.
We all have our 9/11 moment. We all have our 9/11 recovery. We all share in the shock, tears, and restructuring of some foundational beliefs. No single event in my lifetime rocked the world quiet as deeply as 9/11. Eighteen years later, I’m still in disbelief that mankind can be so ruthless to one another. Eighteen years later, I’m hoping we can come together to learn and grow beyond the surface and search for peace. Eighteen years later, I am not willing to forget the lives lost, the struggles, the hard-working individuals who work each and every day to preserve our freedoms. Eighteen years later, I am still proud to call myself an American and contribute, to my best ability, to a nation through honoring those who serve, those who give, and those who seek to find solutions towards ending a cycle of terrorism and fear.
For today, I send my prayers to those who still suffer the worst impacts of the lost loved ones. I send prayers to those who still voluntarily fight for our freedoms, and I send prayers for those who are yet to find themselves as a part of the greater good. In my lifetime, I pray we find peace; since my vision for my children revolves around them making their dreams come true. Global prosperity and happiness are a must not a hope in this formula.