Imagine there’s no countries ~ John Lennon
I don’t have a special story, a personal connection, or even a crazy conspiracy theory. Frankly, I am unsure of what to write or if I should be writing about it at all. I don’t want to wallow in the moment or capitalize off of it. But it is a moment that seems significant to me, as a then-20-year-American-college student living on a University campus.
My 9/11 non-experience goes something like this:
I woke up in my dorm room bed, on top of a plastic mattress cover that squeaked every time I moved. I looked at the alarm: I was late for Linguistics. So I didn’t watch the news that morning. I didn’t realize what had happened until after it happened but I distinctly remember knowing something was different. The halls were unusually quiet; the TVs were unusually loud.
I raced to class and walked in late. The professor started the class with, “You know what’s going on, don’t you?”
The kids nodded solemnly. I anxiously waited for her to explain what had happened but she went on talking about Pinkerton and Chomsky or whatever.
When I finished class, I went back to my dorm and watch footage of the planes slamming into the buildings over and over again. And I watch them fall. That was live. I anxiously called relatives and spoke to people I hadn’t in years. I wrote bad poetry, the way you’re supposed to in college. Only this time, it wasn’t about crushes or cutting or bad sexual experiences. It was strangely patriotic.
I remember students waving flags outside their dorm windows, screaming “We’re going to get them” on my college campus and others who handed out flyers calling for peace. I remember my muslim brother-in-law, who then was just at boyfriend status calling us and saying his country (Bangladesh) had nothing to do with it.
For years, he couldn’t go through airport security without being pulled aside and security picking apart his luggage.
I remember a very friendly sikh student being singled out and harassed because he wore a turban.
I remember photographing nearly 3,000 white flags fluttering in a crisp fall wind that were placed on our campus grounds during the first anniversary.
I remember a picture in Time magazine. It was the silhouette of two people holding hands as they jumped from the towers. Thinking about it still makes me tear up.
When the war started, I remember silently watching orange and red flicker on the TV and how it all seemed so far away. I remember screaming matches with relatives over Iraq — the same ones I called with an “I love you” the day after the attack. The moment that united us then later divided us into reds and blues.
I am seeing the 9/11 coverage from a different angle, a different country. A country that doesn’t make you take your shoes off at the airport. It reminds me of how much things have changed there.
Tomorrow I will be going to a service to cover a memorial plaque unveiling in Quebec. I am not quite sure of all the media coverage – some of it seems more painful and unnecessary than therapeutic.
On September 11, I think of all innocent victims of war and hate – in our country, across the world, across centuries. What have we learned? Always the same old question.