I’ve been debating whether or not to write a blog post devoted entirely to 9/11 on the 10 year anniversary of that horrible day. There has been so much written, shared, tweeted, blogged, and broadcast in the days leading up to today that I wasn’t sure what more I could add – other than my own experience, perspective and feelings.
And so, here it goes.
Every American adult remembers vividly where they were that morning when they first heard (or saw) the news about the Twin Towers getting hit. I was returning home after a very early morning jog with our two dogs at the time, Frankie and Rusty. As I walked into our family room in Pleasanton, California, I saw Renee standing in front of the TV, watching the news. I asked her what was going on and she said “an airplane smashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers.” I thought it was odd but didn’t immediately think of terrorism. My first thought was actually that it must have been a small plane that accidentally flew into the building – similar to one that killed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle five years later. But as we watched and details emerged, it became clear that this was something much worse. I won’t rehash each event here. We all know what happened. But with each unfolding event, the situation just seemed to get more and more surreal – and frightening. When we saw the second airplane smash into the second tower, Renee turned to me and asked, “Why do these people hate us so much?”
10 years later, I have a much better understanding of why the animosity against the US exists. But in no way does it even begin to justify those horrendous actions that morning.
As most of us remember, there was sheer confusion and panic that morning. Nobody knew if other cities would be impacted. It really felt like the US was under attack and nobody knew how to respond.
I was starting a new job at the time – I was hired as Director of Marketing and Promotions for UC-Berkeley’s athletic department only six weeks earlier. I knew I had to go to work, even though so many stayed home that day. I remember how eerily empty the Bay Area freeways were that morning as I drove to Berkeley. And how quiet the skies were that day and afternoon as the FAA canceled all flights and grounded all airborne planes.
Cal was scheduled to play Rutgers that Saturday, so immediately there were discussions about what to do about the game and both administrations quickly agreed to postpone the game to a later date. It turned out to be the last game played that season – and the only win Cal picked up during a truly dreadful season. And suddenly, what was already a daunting task (trying to convince fans to buy tickets to watch a team that was in the midst of a 5th losing season) became even more so. Now people were being advised NOT to gather in large public gatherings as well. There’s a reason I only worked at Cal for one year. Well, actually many reasons but I digress…
Like nearly every other American, I remained shocked by the events for a long time. Instantly I also considered the moment to be the Pearl Harbor of our generation. And I wondered how it would change our country, and lives. Never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) did I imagine what would transpire in the following ten years. Like so many others, I wanted the moment to be one that galvanized Americans and united us with other countries to fight this insane terrorism. It was obvious that we had to do something against Al Qaida to retaliate, and I supported military action to do just that.
But looking back, I feel mostly sad about the events since that day and where we are as a country today. The insane growth of our military budget and attempt to fight multiple wars (one of which was totally unnecessary) has sidetracked and bankrupted our country and the political divisions are even deeper today than they were prior to 9/11. I heard President Obama say today that the US is more secure today than it was 10 years ago and this may be true, but at what cost?
It can be truly depressing to dwell on all of the questions still remaining regarding 9/11 (for example: why did a building not even impacted by an airplane crash collapse? Why aren’t there any images of the plane that hit the Pentagon?) as well as to think about the mess we’re in today economically and politically.
But anyone who knows me knows that deep down, I’m still a stubborn optimist, so I choose to focus on the positives of the day.
I choose to remember the countless heros of the day: the first responders who put their lives at risk in attempts to rescue others. The passengers on flight 93 who overtook the terrorists and crashed the plane into a field – rather than let it arrive at its final destination. The thousands of volunteers – from New York and beyond – who showed up at ground zero to assist with rescue, recovery and clean up. These are the people who I respect and am proud to call fellow Americans. I also choose to remember how the International community rallied to America’s side and the headline “Today we are all Americans.”
While it’s sad that it takes such a terrible tragedy for so many to set aside their political, religious or cultural differences and realize we are all humans and can work together towards a unified goal, we saw that it IS possible. And I cling to that hope that somehow, someway we’ll get back to that point – without a tragedy to trigger it.
Someday I’m going to have to explain 9/11 to the twins and I’m still not sure what I’ll tell them. But I hope that by the time I do have that discussion, we’ll know much more about the events of the day, and we’re again living in a more prosperous and happy society again.
I know, I’m an optimist.