9/11 – A Reflection
Another 9/11 is upon us and here we are again, forced to reflect on what it meant to us and what it continues to mean for the future of this country. When someone mentions 9/11, it always means 9/11/01, a day cemented in time; a day that has lost all meaning outside of the events that occurred nine years ago and will probably always remain that way. We were a band of brothers on that day - I had never seen such unity as was displayed by the New Yorkers, and the rest of America followed suit. It is a day to remember, a day to reflect, a day to honor those fallen and those that became heroes on that Tuesday morning. The images still haunt us. They remind us of what we lost, and perhaps even some things we gained. Our sense of security was shaken by this tragedy and the invincibility of America that we once knew no longer existed. Below is a collection of thoughts and lessons learned from some of our staff in addition to some of our loyal readers who wanted to contribute. Ryan Ackerman had an experience he will not soon forget a year after 9/11 went down. He recalls the years prior, the attacks, and his ever-changing perspective below: Having spent most of 2000 in Paris, being teased and prodded relentlessly about our election debacle, and having to constantly explain to the French that no country has a true democracy (or true socialism, communism or any political ideology for that matter), I thought I was being teased again when two of my French friends reached me by instant messenger. One was in Paris, the other, in Montreal. Being in New Orleans at the time, I thought it was weird enough that the three of us were having a conversation across three different cities in three different countries all with French roots. "Dude, your country’s being attacked!" "Shut up." "No really he’s right, turn on the TV." And I did. She offered condolences. He uncharacteristically joined me in empathetic shock. My wife was at Tulane and was soon calling to ask if I’d heard the news. Classes were canceled after an hour of trying to teach through all the incoming news and confusion. We soon learned that my father-in-law was flying from DC back home, but his plane touched down and was grounded in Dallas. The rest of the day was spent growing numb in front of the repetitive horror on every station. A year later, I think it was about September 7, 2002, I realized that my very practical Dad had booked me on a flight leaving September 11. At first, I was a bit peeved, but that soon wore off as I realized it probably was one of the safest and easiest days to travel. I sat down on the plane next to a sweet looking slightly younger version of Ethyl Merman. "I’m glad you’re not an Arab," she said flatly. "Uh, yeah, Hi," I muttered back, thinking, "What a freaking Redneck Racist!" "Cause I would have asked to be reseated if you were," she continued matter-of-factly. We sat in silence for a few minutes, and then came the words "I lost six close family members last year because of them," her voice shaking a little at the end of the sentence. "I understand." And of course, in that instant, I did. "I’m so sorry for your loss," I heard myself say as my mind drifted away. It was busy trying to comprehend and reconcile what it would feel like to lose that many people in one day, having felt numb watching TV only a year before. And here I am now in sunny Southern California glad that I’m not in New Orleans anymore, having dodged Katrina, feeling numb from watching the latest disaster news, and yet still forming another level of perspective on 9/11 four whole years later. Tabitha Smith was without her husband, Brad, on September 11th. He was in basic training and, because of that, she was left to deal with the implications of what 9/11 meant for their family. She ruminates on the events below: On September 11, 2001 I was working in Kansas City and my husband was in Army Basic Training. Ironic, huh? I went three weeks without being able to talk to him. Three weeks without conveying the deep hurt our country was feeling. Three weeks with unanswered questions. How will this affect ME? What will happen to ME? We, I say we because the military commits the spouse just as much as the soldier, entered the military during peacetime and, as the events unfolded, God began to reveal to me that from this day forward my life would never be the same. The original thought was for my husband to join the military, do a four year tour, get a break from teaching, earn some GI Bill money, get out, get a master’s degree and teach at a small college. Then 9/11 happened and priorities changed. A sense of duty was bestowed upon my husband, and my life was forever altered. A call to service is the best way I know how to put it. Since that time, God has moved us to Fort Campbell, Kentucky where my husband proudly serves as a member of the 101st Airborne. However, things are about to change. As I write this, my husband is preparing to depart for Iraq. A portion of his team leaves in a few days and he will be right behind them. They are leaving to finish the job in Iraq. They are leaving to complete a mission that has taken longer than expected but in the end will prove its worth. I would love to give you rhetoric of how righteous and noble this all is, but right now my life is back to where it was that fateful September...me. My heart breaks for those that lost loved ones to those tragic events and those that have lost soldiers who gave their life fighting the good fight. I just pray that God would show His mercy and that I do not become one of them. May America bless God so that He will continue to bless her. People like Tim Beck have a slightly different way of looking at things. Because of the responsibilities he has, he will not being giving 9/11 extended thought this year. His explanation follows: September 11th will come and go, for me, without much fanfare. To be completely honest, my mind will be elsewhere. For starters, the NFL season kicks off, so I will be glued to the TV most of the afternoon. Then, later that night, my job as a Youth Director will have me leading a fall kickoff for our youth group. To be honest, it has been weird hanging up flyers, promoting a youth event with the date 9-11 at the bottom. I don't think anyone can look at those numbers, in that order, without thinking about that tragic day in New York four years ago. I have not forgotten 9/11. Maybe it's that traumatic of a moment in my lifetime, maybe it's because I'm a history buff...I don't know. But I have to admit, a part of me is fascinated by it all. There are so many compelling stories regarding the events of September 11th, when terrorists knocked us down...but not out. I've done some reading and investigating on the events and that which led up to that horrible day. We (United States) missed a lot of signs and opportunities to prevent this. But on the other hand, we don't think like a terrorist. The idea of using people and airplanes as a means of destruction are foreign to us... I will be busy on September 11th but I will not forget September 11th. Bruce Porter, a contributing writer here at Circle Six Magazine, remembers the chaos that took place, and his final memory before drifting off to sleep that night: What a cluster of a day! I remember my wife calling me at work to tell me an airplane crashed into the first tower. Without access to a television, I was thinking a small plane like a Cessna had crashed into the building. I thought, "sucks to be that pilot!" I just blew it off until I heard others talk about what was happening. The Internet was useless; everyone and their brother was slamming every news site. I finally connected to the BBC's web site and saw what was happening. Once I grabbed the gravity of the situation, I was sullen. I was worried about Al-Qaeda following up with more horrific attacks that day. A backpack device in Chicago going off and spreading radioactive contamination across Lake Michigan to my hometown. I recall local officials enacting their emergency plans and hearing about local police guarding the perimeters of buildings such as our city hall, our hospital and our courthouse. That was surreal. Al-Qaeda probably doesn't know we even exist, yet we were pulling out the stops lest those "goddamned towelheads," as I can imagine our local officials putting it, decide to invade my insignificant city. To top it off, I listened to Michael Savage on the radio that night suggesting we deport every Arab-American. He called people that wore biking shorts a bunch of queers, and this is not the time for our nation to be run by a bunch of faggots! Now if that isn't rational discourse, I have no idea what it is. I'll leave you with two more images from 9/11/2001. One image was driving by a gas station and seeing an older white woman giving a black man hell for some offense that I didn't see. Cars were lined up into the streets as gasoline shot up locally to $2.12 a gallon. The last image was very eery. As you all remember, all flights were suspended immediately after the destruction of the Twin Towers. I remember lying in bed, looking out the window while trying to drift asleep. I saw a lone airplane veering toward the southeast, its hazard lights blinking as I watched the jet quickly fade from view. I'm sure it was a fighter patrolling the skies. Brooke Wesson was in Bible College when 9/11 went down. She recalls the isolation she felt from the rest of the world: It didn’t seem real. So many people say that, but for me it didn't seem real. They announced it at chapel. At the time, I was going to Bible College, living on campus in Dallas. The reactions in my school varied from horror to prayerfulness, fear to anger, weeping in grief to predictions of God's judgment. All felt wrong except prayer and grief. I went numb after they announced a plane had accidentally flown into the World Trade Center Tower and that terrorist activities were suspected. By the second class period, more news had filtered in and my worship class spent the hour on their knees in prayer. By 11:00 AM, the student body gathered in the auditorium, they explained the horrors that were happening in NY and at the pentagon. Students were consoled and we prayed some more. Over the course of the next week, I felt completely disconnected from it all. We were not allowed to have television in our rooms and I didn't get to see half of the horrific images of the planes flying into the towers, people jumping from burning buildings, the collapse of the towers or the grief of NYC. In fact, next to the photos online, I saw none of the media coverage the public was glued to over the next month. As the terrorist attacks unfolded and our nation responded, I still felt separated from it all in my bubble that is a Bible College. I was unable to digest anything, really, until I saw a PBS documentary on 9/11 an entire year late. I think I grieved then. I saw the pain of a nation and felt the suffering and anguish a year later. My 9/11 experience may have been delayed, but I'll never forget that day. Steve Huffman recalls that early Tuesday morning. Steve was already in the military at the time and because of the events of 9/11 he was shipped overseas almost immediately. His memories of that day are as follows: On the morning of September 11th, 2001 I was stationed at Buckley AFB in Aurora, Colorado. I was driving to work listening to my usual radio show and noticed that the DJs weren’t laughing much that morning. Since I was still waking up, I wasn’t really paying much attention. I do remember hearing something about a plane hitting a building but assumed they were talking about something in the Denver area. It was a beautiful Tuesday morning in Colorado and I remember feeling ready for the day. I sat in the parking lot for a moment outside my office trying to piece together what was going on, but it was still sketchy. As I entered the office our secretary was scrambling to get the TV going. We tuned in just after the second tower was hit. I will always remember watching the news and knowing right then that nothing would ever be the same. Two weeks later I was in Saudi Arabia. Jonathan Atteberry. a student at the time, remembers what his walk to his dorm room and the confusion of a student body: They say September 11th is this generation’s Kennedy assassination, that moment that defines our time and burns its way into our memories. I can’t argue. Never before or since have I witnessed anything like what I witnessed on that day. I was trapped in a small classroom at Georgia Tech doing my best to get through some German lit. My memory is a little fuzzy at this point, but I’m pretty sure someone seemed to casually mention that he had heard that a plane had hit the world trade center earlier that morning. I guess when he had heard the news, he assumed it was an accident, or maybe that everything would come out okay, but when we turned on the television, a very different story was playing out. Through the wavy broken reception, we watched as the first tower collapsed, and the footage was simply surreal. We had no idea what was happening, who was behind it, how many people were trapped and dead in the rubble. We sat together in shock for a few minutes with nothing to say before our professor excused us from class. The trek back across campus to my dorm is what sticks out in my mind most clearly about that day. At the student center, all of the televisions had been turned to news coverage, and every room was filled with people watching. The guy standing next to me was telling his friend how he was certain the we would be at war by the next morning, and that he hoped he wouldn’t be drafted. He was an exception though. Most people just watched in silence, visibly shaken and trying to work through an atmosphere of anger, confusion, and sadness that was almost tangible. Eventually, I left the student center and made the rest of the walk across campus, but only when I was just outside my dorm did the reality of what had happened start to sink in, if only a little bit. In front of me was a girl on a cell phone with her family. She seemed to be on the verge of hysteria, and her tears choked back her words. I heard her say something about hoping "they" were okay, and that was when I realized that what was happening on television was a reality, that people were dying and families were being torn apart as the nation watched on. I spent the rest of the day watching the coverage, and the television became something like therapy for me, helping me to sort through the confusion and allowing me to pretend to grasp what was going on. Looking back, however, I realize that the panic that was sweeping through my campus and my city paled in comparison to what was happening in New York. Jason Campbell, a contributing writer for Circle Six Magazine, reflects on the day that scared him deeply yet solidified his faith in God: "The day that the world stopped, for me, was September 11th. I had just started my search back into His arms and this was a profound yet horrible event for my faith and me. Oddly enough, it solidified my faith. As I sat in my work chair, trying to wake myself up via massive consummation of cheap coffee, one of my co-workers ran into the large office filled with a maze of cubicles, which held our companies IT people, me included. She breathlessly said, "A plane hit the world trade building." The thought that entered my mind was a single prop plane had hit the building and it would be blamed on pilot error. Finally, after a frantic search at washingtonpost.com, the picture showed me how wrong I was. I was shocked to see a large plane with its tail protruding from the building. Although I was still under the assumption that it was human error, a few moments later, another co-worker rushed into the room shouting, "Another plane has hit the Twin Towers!" I frantically searched the web for more information, only to have my wife (at the time) call me sobbing. "A bomb went off at the Pentagon, I felt the blast," she cried into the phone explaining that her job would not let her leave. Understandably, she was scared. She was a customer service representative for one of those security cards that work as keys for office buildings and they said that she was not allowed to leave. She asked me to pick up our son, who was just under a year old. In all honesty, I was confused. I had no idea what was going on. As the first tower fell, my thoughts and heart fell to those men and women that were stuck in the building. I felt nauseous and wanted to bawl. I had chosen to delay my departure from work and, finally, when the first tower had fallen, I decided that I had enough. My heart could not take the images from videos of the plane crashing into the towers. As I got to my car, I turned on the radio to hear the newsman say that building two had just fallen. Emotionally, I was done. As I drove to get my son, fear rose within me of a possible chemical attack on DC, yet the tears didn’t give me much time to reflect on that. I could not believe what had just happened. When I picked up my son, I held him close. I said a quick prayer of thanks and remorse for those fallen. People all around had the bewildered look, yet that was the one moment in time that people seemed to dismiss their prejudices against others. That is what I will always remember, the post-9/11 unity of America. Will we ever get it back? Jason Woodall, longs for the day of unity that we had on that day, as he looks back: I can recall that morning vividly. As I walked out of my room, I immediately noticed the TV was on. Apparently, one of my roommates had been watching before he went to work and left it on for rest of us to see. I couldn't believe my roommate didn't wake the rest of us up. I sat there for nearly an hour watching replays of the first tower falling and then the second one went. I remember the drive to work seeming somewhat surreal...everyone seemed a bit kinder behind the wheel. I pass by an Army reserve station that is typically deserted, but that day many soldiers could be seen and vehicles were posted at every gate. At work, most of us huddled around my monitor watching live feeds of the news and we just sat there together as fellow human beings from all parts of the world...Columbia, Singapore, Romania, Vietnam, Illinois, and California. We did not get much work done that day, but that brief moment of unity was something I hope we see more often. What happened to it? Christopher Danley remembers a time of tears and fulfilling his elder duties in church. Chris struggled with his duty of being a Christian versus grief over what happened to his fellow Americans. As a Christian, he knew he was supposed to pray for his enemies, but could he do it? He recounts the events below: There are three memories that stand out to me from the terrorist attack on 9/11. The first of the three was getting in my car that morning, after overhearing a couple of high school kids who had walked by and seemed to be talking about a plot element in a Tom Clancy novel I'd read, turning on the radio and hearing the NPR host stammer, "I don't know how else to say this, but the World Trade Center towers are gone. They're just not there anymore. They're gone." I began to cry after that. In reflection, the second thing I remember is thinking that whoever did this has not studied American history. It was precisely this kind of unprovoked attack that awakened the military might of the U.S. back in 1941. This was my first consideration of who our enemies are and what could possibly motivate such violence. Last but not least, the third thing that sticks out in my mind revolved around my role as a church elder. As an elder in our church, it was often my function within a church service to lead our congregation in prayer. The Sunday following the attacks, I led our church in prayer over the families who'd lost loved ones, for our president, and also for Al-Qaeda and the terrorists who were behind the attacks. I prayed a blessing for them, that God would show them mercy. Perhaps one of the most difficult prayers I've ever had to make in all my life. Paul Stamat, Associate Editor of Circle Six Magazine, quickly reflects on 9/11: I was going to work when I turned on the radio to hear radio personalities "Mark and Brian" talking about how the listeners should not panic. While hearing these words, "Whatever you do, do not panic." All I could think was, "What sort of stunt are these guys trying to pull this time?" They then proceeded to tell the listeners about how one tower had fallen and how a plane had crashed into the other twin tower. And I still couldn’t believe it. They then switched over to their ABC affiliate and I listened to a television feed as the second tower collapsed. It was the strangest day of my life. Work was sort of somber. People walked around, mostly in various states of shock. I sat at my desk and refreshed different news websites waiting for the next update and wondering how something like this could have happened. Erick Bieger, Editor-in-Chief of Circle Six Magazine, wonders if it mattered at all: What's our life look like in a post-9/11 world? Over the past nine years, I have experienced every emotion I can think of in regards to what I watched that September morning. Shock gave way to a renewed patriotism that has now mellowed into a wistful national pride encompassed in a melancholic apathy. Am I different? I suppose - but probably not in a way that honors our dead. Trapped within the Orange Curtain, I find that even NYC was a world away - let alone Afghanistan or Iraq. It didn't happen to me. It didn't happen to me. I'm ashamed at my lack of caring. But I take comfort in knowing that the great majority of Americans feel the same way I do. Admit it. It didn't happen to you so, deep down, you don't really care. Hell, I sat here trying to think of some grand message to close with but I just kept coming back to the naked truth - we don't really care anymore. We're a nation that goes through the motions of flags at half mast and bowed heads and God Bless America during seventh inning stretch but it's all a facade, an ersatz requiem for an event we recall less and less each year. So what do we do? We keep going through the motions because there will be a moment, maybe decades from now, when our grandchildren turn to us and say, "What's 9/11?" At that moment I believe that our manifest denial will finally catch up with us - and we will tell of an event that shaped us more than we ever fathomed. Our voices will shake and we'll be shocked once more as we realize that the world really was NEVER the same again. That we were NEVER that same again.