There was a post going around on Tumblr a couple days ago where someone was complaining that we make too much of a big deal about 9/11, when there are so many other horrible tragedies in the world, why are we treating this event like the biggest thing ever?
Well, it’s times like these that it really shows how young and naive some of the people on this site are. Of course if you were a toddler when it happened, you have no idea the impact that this event had on every American. You have NO IDEA how it changed everything.
I was an adult, which makes me ancient for this website, working an office job in downtown DC, two blocks from the White House. My office had TVs and we watched the entire thing happen live. I saw the second plane hit the Towers, live. My father, working in his office near the Pentagon, heard the plane flying low over his building, looked out the window and saw it explode into the Pentagon.
You will never understand the TERROR of that day. You won’t understand because you have grown up in a world where we are constantly under surveillance and protection. You won’t understand the feeling of vulnerability we had that day. And it DIDN’T STOP. It didn’t stop after the first plane, because then the second plane hit. And then we heard about two other planes hijacked. That one was headed towards DC. Sitting in an office two blocks from the White House, that was fucking scary. The subways were closed, so people decided to leave and walk home, miles away, because the streets were clogged with people who were driving home. It was like being in the middle of a disaster movie. I kept expecting someone to jump in and yell, “CUT!”
There were rumors: the Capitol is on fire, there was a bomb at the State Department, the Mall was on fire; they all seemed plausible. No one knew what to believe. Do you have any idea how scary it was to think you were a sitting target and no one knew what else to expect? Fighter jets were scrambled over the DC airspace, their sonic booms as they broke the sound barrier above sounding like explosions, making you jump in your seat.
You couldn’t get a phone line to the outside world, friends calling me all got busy signals. Cell phone signals pretty much nonexistant. I had friends in NYC, I was terrified for them. It was hours and days before we could account for everyone we knew.
Then on TV, oh god, the people who threw themselves off the buildings. Do you have any idea what it must have been like? You go to work one morning like normal, and then you have to make the choice whether you’d prefer to burn to death or throw yourself off the 100th floor? Can you imagine the terror, the fear? And the people below, when the bodies began hitting all around them?
And then the Towers began to fall. You’re watching it happen live. And you know there are thousands of people inside, hundreds of incredibly brave firefighters and police who are running UP the stairs trying to evacuate people? You’re watching them die. And the Towers turn to dust, and the clouds of dust turned Lower Manhattan into night. People walking around dazed. It isn’t real, it can’t be real. This gorgeous, sunny, perfectly blue-sky day has become an incomprehensible nightmare.
And it DIDN’T STOP. The plane crashed into the Pentagon. Then the one in Pennsylvania, all those brave passengers who sacrificed themselves to prevent another tragedy. The Towers fell. What next?
My office had pretty much emptied out, everyone was allowed to go home if they wanted. I stayed, because I needed the subway to go home. It was late afternoon before they ran trains again. And sitting in that train, everyone sitting in shocked silence. Not a word was spoken. We all just stared at the floor. The conductor came on the speaker and told us that for obvious reasons, our train would not be making its usual stop at the Pentagon station. We just kept going, underneath the carnage.
I emerged from my station at the next stop. The first thing to hit me was the smell of burning. It stung my eyes and lungs. It was gasoline and rubber burning. I looked to my right, I could see the giant smoke plume where the Pentagon was. My apartment was on the other side, my usual route went right next to it. The road closures were extensive, and my usual 20-minute drive took 3 hours.
What I’m trying to get across is that, yes, we’re lucky. We’re lucky that we live in a country where we don’t experience constant war, starvation, abuse and poverty. Yes, there have been worse atrocities in history. And there will probably be worse in the future.
But this happened to US. Thousands of innocent people died that day, for no reason other than they were unlucky enough to go to work that day, or get on a particular flight. And hundreds of first responders, incredibly brave men and women who didn’t think about themselves, just doing their job.
It HURT. It was fucking scary. It was a day that defined, for me and for many others, true TRAUMA.
It sucked that the day became exploited, used for people’s political purposes. That it became a symbol for patriotic jingoism and cheesy “never forget” crying eagle shit. That people used it as an excuse to be assholes to one another, to discriminate, to justify prejudices, and to start wars. That is not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about a day where our safe existence was destroyed. Where we were UNDER ATTACK. Those of you who were young at the time maybe understood it, but couldn’t fully appreciate it. I can’t be so arrogant to say that I know what it’s like to live in a war zone, but it made me understand it a little better. It’s horrible.
Which is why when the anniversaries roll around, it brings all those feelings back. We’re right back there on that fucking scary day. I saw people die, live on television.
So, sorry if you think I’m making a big deal about it. I really actually don’t care. I feel sorry for you if you want to be cynical in your young age, because you think it’s cool to be dismissive and of course you know all the things when you’re 19 years old and your memory of that day is your preschool teacher watching TV in class in between your snack and naptime.
Watch the video above. I think it says it all pretty well. Learn something. Don’t roll your eyes. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute, and have a heart.