Life Events: 20 years after 9/11

I remember the day of September 11th, 2001 with unusual clarity. I remember where I was and what I did when I heard about the initial attack (my response to my friend was “that’s not funny” because I could NOT imagine it being real). I didn’t see the towers fall live. It was the only teacher the rest of that day who didn’t turn on the tv and watch the coverage. I wish I had thanked him for that. As anxious as I was to know in that class, by the end of the day, I was basically sick. Physically and emotionally I was absolutely sick.

Twenty years has now passed. This week I watched a documentary on MSNBC called Memory Box which interviewed survivors of the towers and the pentagon attack in 2002 and again this (2021) spring. I really liked that because we heard about the day through the lens of these survivors as the primary source within 12 months of the day. They interspersed news anchor voices, but they really tried to focus on these people’s stories.

There is now a generation of adults who have never lived in the world without terror. My parents grew up in a post-nuclear attack world, it’s the only history I can truly think compares. These two events – the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs changed the world. Changed war forever. And the terror attacks on 9/11 changed the world.

It has really made me think about the world over the past 100 years. I know World War II was less than a hundred, but in the past 100 years we have come from cavalry and trench warfare. I am sorry I didn’t get better twentieth century history in school, maybe I would have appreciated it more if it hadn’t always been crammed in during the end of the school year. Or hadn’t only spent time on World War II and then was like “and then we had hippies and civil rights and now we’re all HERE. Ta da!”

In World War 1 radio was the most technologically advanced method of communication and radio waves are great, but have limitations in distance and weather and terrain. I regularly speak to a co-worker based in India with video options available so we can see each other’s face. Literally the other side of the world and it’s commonplace. Just take a minute and sit with that in your mind: where the world has changed that much.

In just the past twenty years the technology has changed so rapidly. In 2001 cell phones were around, but no one used them often. They were expensive. Reserved for emergencies. Terrible reception in most places. The coverage wars wouldn’t start up for several more years (2009 they started advertising about their maps).

There is a generation of people who grew up in the 1950s and 60s – just think about some of the things that have changed in their lifetimes: television (24 hour coverage); the internet (holy shit); phones (my parents talk about “party lines – look it up); social expectations (homosexuality being only the most tiny tip of the iceberg); feminism from women being unable to get a credit card to holding the second most powerful role in the world (finally). Food, clothes, music…. take almost any aspect of our life and culture and consider the changes over the past 70 years.

I don’t know what to do with these thoughts. I don’t know how to make such rapid change less painful or scary or just hard. Hard to follow. Hard to keep up. Sometimes exhausting.