End of An Era

September 11, 2014

in OldSchool

13 years ago.

Almost half my life ago.

And yet I still remember the scratchy texture of the carpet under my feet as I stood in my hallmate’s dorm room, clutching a towel around me as water still hot from the shower streamed off my hair and I tried to process what I was seeing on TV.

Curiosity had pulled me out of the communal showers that morning. We were all still brand new to each other, freshmen in college for just two weeks, so excited exclamations were the norm. Someone’s boyfriend had, finally, dumped them. Someone’s roommate had, finally, come home from her first kegger the night before. Someone had flown a plane into a skyscraper in NYC.

Huh. That sucks.

We were the class that lived through the national aftermath of Columbine. Through distant memories of the Oklahoma bombing. Through our fathers’ deployments in Operation Desert Storm. Plane crashes were not expected, but still accepted.

And then the second one hit.

Which is when we began to realize that this was not just a small tragedy in an otherwise normal day.

And then the third plane hit. Close to home. The Pentagon. Suddenly what we were witnessing on CNN was not just a small, isolated incident, but one which had the potential to change a large number of our lives. UVA’s student population draws heavily from the Northern Virginia area – an area which is heavily populated by military or retired military families now working as government contractors. Even if our parents didn’t actually work at the Pentagon, it was not out of the realm of possibility that they’d be there on any given day. Or our friends’ parents. Our neighbors. Everyone knew someone with a potential reason to be at the Pentagon that morning.

And then the first tower collapsed.

We saw it happen. Stuffed into a dorm room still only half un-packed, crowded around a 13inch television. The industrial grade carpet scratchy under my bare heels, grounding me as our world changed live on CNN.

You’re invincible at that age. Staying up all night, running through the snow in flip flops, driving out to the middle of no where to star gaze with a guy you just met. Bad things happen, but never to you. God protects fools and children, and at that age we were both.

Not a single one of us was technically touched by the events of 9/11. None of us lost a parent, friend, or neighbor. All of us lost our innocence. The world is no longer a safe place. We no longer trust our neighbors to be the good people they appear to be if they do not appear to be like us. We struggle to close our own borders while engaging in endless attacks in other lands. We wish to be one country, united. And yet I feel as though we are splintered into a hundred different factions. Lied to by our leaders, regardless of political affiliations, and spied on by our own government even as it insists the threat lies beyond. The aftermath of 9/11 has brought out the best and the worst in us, pushed our country out of its childhood and into an uncertain adulthood, and changed the lives of my children forever.

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