My Sept. 11, 2001 memories

When the death of Osama bin Laden was announced in May, I wrote up a post on how that news resonated with me, compared to how I experienced the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks almost a decade prior. The death of Osama bin Laden, I wrote, felt like it brought closure to the epoch of time kicked off that dark Tuesday morning a decade ago.

At that time I was a sophomore in high school, shortly after the start of the school year. The first I heard was walking into my second period health class, where the teacher had her classroom TV turned to the news. It was clear that SOMETHING had happened, though I can’t recall exactly how much was known at that point. (This would have been around 9 a.m. Central Time, or 10 E.T., at which point both the south and north towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been struck. United 93 crashed around this time.) But when the second bell rang, my no-nonsense health teacher shut off the TV and started class.

Fourth period was band, and at that point we knew more details and that the principal was about to go on the intercom to address the school about the event. I suggested to my band teacher that we play the Star Spangled Banner (part of our regular repertoire in September, marching band season) after the principal finished talking. It seemed appropriate. The band director agreed, and we did.

After school activities were cancelled that day, which I believe got me out of a speech practice I wasn’t looking forward to. Heading home I noticed people gathering on the street, at the intersection of two major roads through town where my school was — a spontaneous pro-America rally.

Like a decade later, I spent most of the rest of the day getting news. My aunt, who worked in the World Trade Center, was fine. Only two events from the remainder of that Tuesday stick in my mind. The first is seeing the news coverage of that spontaneous rally growing bigger and bigger and then turning ugly, as members of the crowd tried to march on the mosque located several miles to the west. Police from multiple suburbs were called in to head them off, and ultimately that ended without bloodshed or destruction.

The second is watching grainy footage of explosions in Afghanistan on TV. More than any personal, emotional responses, I reacted to the September 11 attacks by asking myself “what next”? As it quickly became evident that Afghanistan had a role in the attacks, I was intensely pondering America’s response — and in particular what would almost certainly be a military response. Despite being a politically conscious child I didn’t dwell overmuch on the political implications. It was the military implications that fascinated me, and I was glued to the TV as reporters tried to figure out whether the Afghan explosions caught on tape was American retaliation. (As it turned out, it was internal Afghan fighting, related to the assassination two days prior of anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud.)

I can’t really say that the September 11 attacks had much of a psychological effect on me. I don’t recall an increase in anxiety or fear of further attacks, as many people did in that time. As was (and is) my wont, I reacted by detaching from the situation and analyzing. But I’m far from a robot (despite, perhaps, some peoples’ occasional suspicions) and definitely did feel an emotional response to the attacks, a surge in patriotic pride evidenced by my idea for the band to play the national anthem.

You can read the rest of my thoughts on the original post, including how I felt on the news of bin Laden’s death.