It’s so strange reflecting on the events of 15 years ago today. I felt more choked up watching the coverage this morning thinking about those events and how our lives have changed since.
On 9/11/01, I was a junior at EIU and I lived in a single room. It was a Tuesday and I had an 8:00 class, I don’t remember the name but it was something having to do with mass communications. I didn’t have the tv on as I got ready for class and after leaving my room I ran by the front desk to get a paper. I thought it was weird that there was a tv in the front desk area, with what I thought at the time was footage of the Oklahoma City bombing (full disclosure I don’t even remember when that was without looking it up… That was just what crossed my mind). I didn’t hear any talk about it as I crossed the quad to Coleman Hall, either no one was talking about it as it was just happening or I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t notice talking about it waiting for class to start either.
Class was starting right as the second plane hit. My teacher came in and he was more upset than any of us. Maybe because he understood more than any of us at that moment. I don’t remember that teachers name but I do remember he wasn’t American and I think he may have been something middle eastern. I can’t help thinking with all the backlash against Muslims and in general anyone who wasn’t born here these days, about that teacher who understood what had happened and cried along with us or maybe more than us.
Class was dismissed quickly and I headed back to my room where I sat by myself for a while worrying and horrified as the towers fell. It actually took me a while to realize I needed to get to the paper! This started what is still my most surreal day of my short journalism career. A link to our 9/12/01 paper showed up in my FB On This Day a few days ago and I should have reposted it. I was campus editor that year. I don’t even remember what I did that day but I helped cover a vigil that night.
Two things have stuck in my mind in the 15 years since that day.
First, one story that has stuck with me since then was the story I did the following week about two former Eastern ROTC instuctors who had seen the action at the Pentagon. Former instructor Lt. Col. Canfield D. Boone died that day. We watched some of the coverage this morning on CNN and they stopped talking when there was the moment of silence at 8:03 when the second plane hit. After that moment was done, before the commentators started talking again, Boone’s name was the first one read. Such a coincidence. The story I wrote about Boone can be read here: http://www.dailyeasternnews.com/2001/09/25/alumni-instructor-see-terrorist-attacks/
The other anecdote I remember is a few days after 9/11, I went back to work on a story I was supposed to do on or around 9/11, a story about surveillance cameras being installed in the Union food court. I talked to a few students to gauge their reaction to that news and one asked, why are you doing that story considering what’s happened in the last week? The answer? Because life goes on.
We haven’t talked to the kids about 9/11 at all. I don’t know how we would explain it. At one point Allie asked about it when something was said on tv, and all we said is a lot of people died that day, and left it at that. How do you explain that? I read last week that this year’s high school freshmen will learn about 9/11 as a historical event they were not alive for. Sept. 11 surely is our generation’s “where were you when?” event.
We need to make sure we don’t forget, and we need to help the next generation learn. We need to be grateful for what we have. The terrorists didn’t win on 9/11/01, and they will never win.