Where I Was

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Every now and then I learn some new sixties or seventies factoid and I invariably turn to my Mom. "Where were you when JFK died?" or "Do you remember the Bay of Pigs?" One day my kids are going to come home from school and ask me: "Do you remember when those planes crashed into the World Trade Center?"

On September 11th, I woke about 8:45am for no reason. I stared at the ceiling and tried to remember a bad dream I vaguely recalled when the phone rang. "Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center," my brother told me. I laughed. "How funny," I thought. Sounds like a movie. So I grabbed a Coke and some crackers and plopped in front of the TV to watch the show.
"I'll never understand why people can say "Kill all the Muslims!" and then turn to me and ask what Muslims believe."

Ten minutes later I sat staring as a building with people trapped inside collapsed. Then another collapsed. Huge tall gleaming buildings in the morning sun. Twin sentinels of capitalism, of our good American economy and way of life. Soon they were no more than charred rubble. When the Pentagon was hit, I thought "That's impossible! It's our military headquarters. The safest place in the country." Then they showed the roof collapse.

People were running. People were hurt and scared. I sat waiting to hear planes that never came. The ones I was certain would crash into the Inforum or CNN buildings in Atlanta. I waited to hear that the Sear's tower had collapsed. That the United Nations building was on fire. Instead I heard a plane had crashed outside of Pittsburgh (where my sister lives and works.) A frantic phone call or two later and I knew she was fine. But I wasn't.

I sat shaking without anger. But I was full of pain, grief, sadness, wonder and arrogance. Yes, arrogance. "How dare they?" I thought. "We're the greatest country in the world! Our military strength is incredible! How could this happen here? It must have taken alot of money and resources, some government is behind it."

Towards noon I realized that it could have taken about twenty people to take down landmark buildings, to kill thousands. Just twenty angry people.

I don't know who they are but I know they're message now. We're not invincible. We're not everyone's favorite country. It only took four planes to shake us up and kill thousands of people. Only a handful of people.

It made me wonder what it must be like to live in a real war zone, as I sat there and listened for planes and wondered if my sister was alive. I understand why people hate my country. But I'll never understand why people can say "Kill all the Muslims!" and then turn to me and ask what Muslims believe. I don't understand why they become quiet when I tell them it's an Abrahamic religon like Judaism and Christianity. I don't understand why being Muslim makes you a terrorist but people bombing abortion clinics don't make Christians look evil. I don't understand why people in their shock and grief crave war.
"Maybe this isn't the age of knowledge, wisdom, understanding and unity I thought it was shaping up to be."

One day there will be a documentary on TV and I'll watch it with my kids. Maybe I'll understand then why we kill people who laugh, love and breathe like we do. Maybe I'll know why humans must fight amongst each other and focus on their differences. Maybe I'll just cry as hard as I did today and feel as scared and not be able to find my faith and hope.

Maybe this isn't the age of knowledge, wisdom, understanding and unity I thought it was shaping up to be. I say war is wrong and I'm screamed at, called: Un-Patriotic, Anti-American, Cowardly. I am told that it means that I must side with the terrorists. I sit in shock as I hear my brother speak of enlisting. I wonder if I my faith in humanity and my Creator collapsed with two skyscrapers. I wonder how two skyscrapers I rarely thought about before have suddenly become symbols of the fear and grief I see in my once-so-bright future.

So, I'll remember where I was today. I'll never forget how my world seemed to collapse beneath me. As if fires had been brewing below the surface and my faith and idealism had been too much for the rotted pillars of humanity to support. Pillars that had never seemed so shiny as they did when I went to bed the night before.

S.L. Hill, 19 lives in mountains of North Georgia and is a WireTap contributor. She describes herself as an amatuer painter and writer and Pagan.Check out her article Growing (up): A Reflection that ran last November.

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