I was in my fourth year at Michigan State University. I was walking to class, which was on the opposite side of campus from where I lived. As I crossed through one of the dorms (a short cut to get where I needed), I saw a crowd of students gathered in one of the first floor lobbies. This was kind of weird, since most students had TVs in their rooms, not many people used the TVs in the common areas. Especially not before 9:00 in the morning. Most people were either still sleeping or going to class.
I remember stopping, just briefly, to see what they were all watching. From my vantage point, I couldn’t tell what was happening and no one was speaking. I could sort of see shots of what looked like a tall building, I couldn’t see what the headlines, tickers and subtitles read. At first, it didn’t seem like a big deal. It almost looked like one of those media stories covering the demolition of a historic building and people were just standing around waiting for it to happen.
I thought, “What’s the big deal? Why are people so obsessed with dynamite?” shrugged my shoulders and left. I needed to get to class, I didn’t have time to sit around and watch them destroy some building.
As I walked into my classroom building a few minutes later, I saw one of my friends. His face was pale. I asked him what was wrong. He said, “You don’t know?” When I shook my head he said, “Go to the computer lab and get on CNN.com. Now.” And that’s all he would say.
My class that day was already supposed to be in a computer lab, so I went straight there. I pulled up the website, and saw the second plane crash into the second tower. At this point, I can’t remember if it was live or a replay, but it doesn’t matter. That’s an image you don’t forget. Ever.
Classes were cancelled, but a few of my classmates and I stayed inside the lab, watching the coverage on websites. Watching the buildings fall to the ground like they were made from matchsticks, not steel.
Eventually we left. I spent the entire day glued to the TV, my housemates on the couch next to me. We had friends from England visiting with us that week. I have always wondered what that day was like from their perspectives–being here, but being outsiders in a way. I wonder what their emotions were? I never really asked. I know they were shocked. I know they offered us their support (and we were grateful for it). I remember our friend’s grandmother calling to see if he was alright and could he see it from where he was. Before coming to visit us, he’d spent time in New Jersey. Luckily, we were in Michigan, just spectators from a safe distance.
In the days that followed, I do remember feeling a sort of hollowness. Though there was also an almost tangible sense of camaraderie. It didn’t really matter if you knew that other guy walking by you on the sidewalk, suddenly you were connected.
Every year as the anniversary comes around, I almost try to avoid it. The media makes a big deal out of showing coverage, someone posts a status on Facebook about how “We will never forget”. I get a little annoyed, like I just wish people would move past it. Then the day gets here, I see the images replayed and suddenly I’m reliving it all over again. The emotions just as raw as they were in the computer lab in the Com-Arts building at MSU. I can’t begin to wrap my head around the emotions of those who were in New York that day. What this day must feel like to them. Or to those who lost loved ones in the attacks (or rescue that followed).
It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years.
My hope, going forward, is that we will finally figure out–as a human race–that we can’t solve hate with hate. I pray as people watch the replay of the towers crashing to the ground they remember that people from 90 countries lost lives in the attacks that day, not just us. I pray they remember people from all faiths–not just Christianity–lost lives that day. I pray they remember that people of all ages–men, women, girls, boys and babies–lost lives that day. And I pray as we remember, we never forget we’re all in this together. The world will never work based on an us against them mentality. But it just might if it’s us working with them. Whoever “them” may be.
I look at my children, who weren’t even a twinkle in my eye that day, and I pray by the time they’re in college people will just be people and no one will have the desire to kill another based on race, religion, politics, creed, gender or sexuality. That it won’t matter if they’re best friends with a Muslim, or if they’re gay, or if they vote red or blue.
When I was a little girl I told my dad I wished there were no countries, just so people wouldn’t fight about which one was better. He walked to his CD player and played John Lennon’s Imagine for me. The song was released 40 years ago. That’s the future I still wish for.