Confusion. Disbelief. A flicker of excitement. Hope. Guilt. Waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. And watching. Wanting to know details. Wanting to be sure.
Last night’s news was unexpected, to say the least. Historical. I don’t want to get into politics here, but I can’t help feeling the weight of bin Laden’s death, it’s impact on America’s story. On the world.
9/11 was almost 10 years ago. As much as I’m a kid now, I was a kid then. And despite my awful memory, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Mrs. L running into our 1st period history class and whispering to Mrs. B, then Mrs. B’s face blanching, then Mr. B canceling our regular lessons and wheeling out the TV. We all sat rapt, watching and listening to the scramble of false reports. Small hobby plane — no, commercial jet. One plane — no, two. Pilot error — no, terrorist attack.
Between classes, we heard shocked, scared whispers in the hallway. Second tower. Fell. Pentagon. During 3rd period calculus, an office attendant came in and handed a note to Mr. M. After reading it, he told a girl sitting two rows ahead of me to pack her things and go see the principal. Her brother worked in the World Trade Center.
In 4th period, Mrs. G said, “Let’s not pretend there’s anything more important than this right now.” She let us use our cell phones. I had no one to call until the news flashed Pittsburgh. Then the panic felt more rightfully mine.
And so it began. The fear. The war. The changes in airport security. I wonder if we could compare ourselves now to ourselves then, if the contrast would be very striking. Like a photograph that shows you all the little things that have added up. You don’t notice your body changing shape or your hair growing from one day to the next — but after weeks, months, years, you might hardly recognize yourself.
I don’t mean to sound jaded or melodramatic. I don’t think we’re broken. But I think we were damaged, we were dealt a heavy blow, and we’ve been trying to heal ever since. Last night was — could be — hopefully is — a turning point in that recovery.
I’m sure the road ahead of us is still long, but today I can’t help looking back and marveling at how far we’ve come.
Also, I know it’s cliché — a writer’s worst enemy, normally — but I do sincerely want to thank our service men and women for all that they do. Andy’s younger brother is on his first tour as a Marine right now, and that has put a lot of things in sharp perspective for me. May he, and all our loved ones, be safe.