Where were you?

They used to ask: "Where were you when JFK was shot?" Now that question will undoubtedly be replaced with: "Where were you on September 11, 2001?"

I remember being at home with Stuart, both of us getting ready to bike to school, and hearing Bob Edwards' voice on NPR announcing that a plane had just run into the World Trade Center.

"Terrorists?" I said.

"Surely not. A bomb would be easier than a plane," said Stu.


An hour later I was on campus, heading up to the department office to make some copies for the class I was teaching, and I saw the office staff huddled around a small television that had been wheeled in. One woman was crying. There were images then of the Pentagon smoking, and then they cut to New York and we watched as the second tower fell.

I went down to my office and said to my office-mate, "Have you been watching the news?"

"Yeah," he said. "But surely not that many people could have been hurt, right?"

Wrong again.

Like most everyone else in the U.S., I spent the rest of the day in a daze, watching the news and calling my family...and yet I also went about doing business as usual. I taught my class and taught a piano lesson and practiced a little. I think I was sort of numb from it all, because I also remember driving out to Bed, Bath and Beyond to try and return a blender (it had been a wedding gift), and they had closed early. That was probably the most trivial thing I could have chosen to do that afternoon. Later I taught several hours of piano lessons, and had a heartbreaking but meaningful moment with a kid named Jeremy. He was a terrible piano student, but a sweet kid, and when he looked at me with his dark, sad eyes and said, "How could someone do something that terrible?" I almost cried because I didn't know how to answer him.

So that's where I was.

It was pointed out to me this evening that while tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it is the hundredth anniversary of Ghandi's declaration of satyagraha, non-violent protest, in South Africa. Interesting, isn't it, that on a single day we can remember a terrible act of violence on our country, and a man who was one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century, whose principles were based in non-violence? Though Ghandi was Hindu himself, I believe he found the inspiration for these principles in reading the Bible. (Is this the same Bible that Pat Robertson reads?)

When I think about how my country responded to the 9/11 attacks, I feel anger and sadness, but mostly, I feel shame. 3,000 people died unjustly that day on U.S. soil, and in the months that followed, our military was sent out to seek revenge. Did this set things right? How many civilians died in Afghanistan? Tenfold the number we lost here? Twenty? And in Iraq? How many have died there? How many of our own in the armed forces have died overseas by now? How can this be just? How can this be right? How can these actions possibly promote a better world?

Those questions are rhetorical, mind you. If you want to try and tell me that our military presence in thoses countries is making us safer and that my anti-war stance is hurting morale, please save your breath. The way I see it, dropping bombs on people constitutes as terrorism, no matter who is doing it to whom. Think about it. Five years ago we lost 3,000 people, two skyscrapers, and a piece of the Pentagon, and just that brought this country to its knees. By "just," I don't mean to trivialize the loss, but since then, our military has done far more damage than that, destroying whole cities and their infrastructures. I wouldn't blame the folks in Afghanistan and Iraq for being terrified and angry and disgusted. So many people have died. (If Bush admitted to 30,000 civilian casualties in Iraq, what do you suppose the actual number is? If that's not unjust, I don't know what is. In fact, that seems to be the very definition of injustice.)

Ghandi said Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth, and a determination to reach truth, an insistence on truth. I believe that truth and justice go hand in hand, and that you can not find either if you are using violence to find them.


Jenn Hacker said…
I had just walked into my Mass Communications class at EKU (late again) when I noticed that no one in class was doing class work. Everyone was glued to the TV. We sat in shock that entire class period watching. I was upset, too, because my brother Joel lives in Brooklyn, and I knew he worked in the city somewhere at the time, but not knowing NY too well, wasn't sure how close. Plus his gf Leah is with the NYPD, so I knew she'd be pulled in down at the towers to help. Sad day for me, but happier later when I talked to Joel. I understand Leah has had some respiratory trouble since that time.
Tooz said…
9/11, I was at the high school, digging through files looking for students who had actually qualified for gifted services but had been bypassed. I spent about an hour over there, then walked back to SSS to find the entire school silent--very strange. Everyone was tuned in to the TV. I saw the plane hit the second tower and saw both towers fall. It was a very strange day in an elementary school.
canadahauntsme said…
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canadahauntsme said…
I had just started my French class. The prof was late and announced, rather off-the-cuff, that there was some sort of terrorist attack in New York on the World Trade Center towers. I had assumed it was something similar to Oklahoma City a few years prior; I don't think any of us really understood the gravity of the situation until an hour later when class was dismissed and you couldn't take two steps on campus without hearing about it.

I spent the rest of the day at home in front of the TV watching CNN's coverage. I remember that I was also taking a political science class that semester: "international relations." The next semester I took a geography course: "lands and people of the non-western world." Needless to say that was an interesting year for the humanities.

I also remember where I was when I learned that the US was going to war with Iraq. I was also in class, but here at Tech. In fact, 9/11/01 convinced me to apply to graduate school. At that time the market for engineers was in decline, and such a significant terrorist attack like the WTC tragedy certainly didn't help the economy, nor the job market.
pamigelsrud said…
I was living in Rochester, NY and had just started a job teaching music part-time for a private school. I was home because none of the classes I taught met on that Tuesday. I happened to have my television on, which was unusual for me, so I saw the whole tragedy as it happened. I remember that it was really shocking and disturbing and that I was worried about all my friends who live in New York and hoping everyone was ok. I found out later that my friend Audrey, who worked near the WTC, saw a lot of what happened from the street and was really freaked out for quite a while afterwards. Another friend was on the subway underground fairly close to the WTC. I really should find out more details from them. I remember that time being a very difficult and strange time for most people I knew, because no one I knew had ever experienced such a tragedy so close to home. The hardest things to reconcile for me were the simultaneous feelings of great sorrow for all the lives lost in America and the understanding that the reason why this happened might be rooted in our very own faulty foreign policy -- that maybe people in other countries don't like us very much and might be angry at us. And it seemed like I could usually only find people who understood one thing OR the other. My boyfriend at the time felt that the US deserved this attack because of all the death and suffering we had caused others around the world. I remember one particularly heated debate between him and another friend of mine, who had a brother in the military and completely defended the US as an innocent defender of freedom. I never felt satisfied with either point of view. I am a pacifist and call me an idealist, but I think war is wrong and killing innocent civilians is never justified, whether you call it terrorism or war. It makes me sick and it makes me so very sad. I think it was MLK Jr who said, "An eye for an eye makes everyone blind".
Becca said…
I had gotten up with a headache and called my boss, telling him I would be in later. He made the comment that after what happened, nothing was really going on anyway. Having not turned on the TV and waiting for some Advil to kick in, I didn't follow what he was saying.

After trying to nap a bit, I called my boss again to say I really didn't want to come in (it was another 4 months till the headache source was diagnosed, and this was a call I made at least once a week). Again, he said that was fine, I should just stay home since no calls were coming in anyway.

I panicked, thinking my project (which has done an install the night before) had broken the customer service system. He realized I had no clue and told me to turn on my TV.

I did. It was already on CNN. Before I knew what was happening, I saw the second tower fall, heard the repeat of the anchor about the first tower falling, and then heard the report of a plane over PA, headed for the Capitol.

I went in our bedroom and woke up Tom (who worked second shift and hadn't been asleep long), telling him I didn't know what was happening, but I didn't think he'd want to sleep through it.

A few hours later, we got an email from Tom's nephew's mother--our nephew, who lives in Spanish Harlem, had been called for jury duty and she couldn't reach him. It took 8 hours longer to finally get through and find out he was alright.
annalu alulu said…
I was at EKU, living in the dorm, and didn't have a tv. I remember waking up and standing in front of the mirror to brush my teeth, when I suddenly felt like God wanted me to pray for our president (who I thought was a joke). I had never done that before, and thought it was a little silly and patriotic to pray for the president. Then I went out into the hall to go to the bathroom, and saw my friend, who asked me if I knew what was going on, and then took me to her room to watch the news. We saw the second plane hit the tower.

I also remember attending an impromptu prayer meeting in the Meditation Chapel. I had never seen that many students there in the middle of the day.

Sometimes, Daniel will ask me how I feel about war. I always tell him that I don't begin to understand it.
Suze said…
Ann, wow!

I still think our president is a joke, but after all he's done, it's a bitter, cynical joke.
mamacita said…
I was in my car on my way to work in Guadalajara, Mexico listening to the news on the radio when I first heard that a plane had hit one of the twin towers. We too, spent the entire day in shock watching the TV instead of holding class.

Your comments on our government's reaction to 9-11, made me think that you might appreciate this timeline on US interventions around the world since 1801. Unfortunately, seeking revenge, looks to be the norm.

Becca said…
It's not the revenge factor that bothers me, since that's basic human nature, but the deception committed through the opportunity that's distasteful to me.

PNAC layed out their need for a catastrophe as a rallying cry for overthrowing Saddam in 1999. The members of PNAC became Bush's Cabinet, and quickly looked for opportunities. This "War on Terror" is a thinly veiled method of gaining power and money through puppet democracies and oil control. Should Osama be punished? One could say sure given the enormity of the attack, but Bush could care less (and has said so).

I won't even go into the insanity of a war on an abstract noun, since Terry Jones covers it much better in his book of essays for London newspapers.

How sad that the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have become much more accurate in their reporting and digging through sound bites for contradictions and lies than our own mainstream media.

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