Sept. 11: Seventeen Years

Where was I on 9/11? I was beginning my second year of graduate school. It was a beautiful New England September day. I had my first ever presentation in front of other grad students and my advisor in two days, and had planned to spend the day preparing. As I was arriving at the physics building, I walked by construction workers in a pickup truck blasting news radio, and thought it was odd. When I got to my office, my officemate and his wife told me that planes had crashed into the WTC.
My dad was at work in one of the areas that was on the news. I called for what seemed like hours until the phone finally connected. I somehow (I don’t believe I had a cell phone yet) connected with my then best friend, and waited for her. A British couple, not having heard, I guess, asked me directions.  My friend and I went to one of the big lecture halls and watched on CNN.

Eventually I went home; I was unable to focus at all on preparing my presentation the following day, and it ended up not going that well. There were no planes at all overhead, except fighter jets.

I simply can’t believe it’s been 17 years, because the memories of that day are fresh for me, and vivid.  There is an entire generation of kids, including mine, who don’t remember that day.  I guess all of history are like that; Pearl Harbor Day, major wars…at the time they are so much a part of the collective experience that you can’t imagine anybody NOT having been touched by it.  But slowly time passes, and eventually there is nobody living who has a firsthand memory.

For sure, those of us who were alive that day will never forget.

I remember how open airports were before–how you could walk up to the gate and say goodbye to your loved ones; buy an open ticket and show up at the airport, as though you were boarding a bus, and be where you wanted within hours.  All of that changed, I guess permanently.  I wouldn’t even remember myself, except that I made an effort to.

Our kids won’t remember the time when things were simpler; when it never occurred to anyone that a plane could be used as a bomb.  That makes me sad.

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