On September 11th I woke up at about eight o'clock. I had planned to take my girlfriend to the Ark City campus of Cowley to pick up a textbook that hadn't come in to Wichita yet. I woke up and turned on TechTV, like I did every morning. But for some reason, I became bored with TechTV and switched over to CBS. They were already covering the first crash. At that point no one knew whether it had been an accident or intentional. It was interesting enough to really hold my attention while I waited for Tandra to arrive at my apartment. As I was watching, the second strike occurred. It was then that I, just like everyone else, realized that this was no accident. We also realized that the first strike had been nothing smaller than a full-sized jetliner. I was horrified, but still felt a feeling of detachment. I felt that "this is taking place in one location in the world, in New York City." I watched in fascination as the buildings burned and smoked. I remember wondering why helicopters weren't rescuing people from the roof. I remember wondering how they would go about putting out the fire. I remember thinking that the structural integrity of the building had probably been compromised and the people in it should probably evacuate, but for some reason, the concept of the entire building collapsing absolutely never crossed my mind. I wondered how the people above the impact locations would get out. Bryant Gumbel was talking about the attacks when, apparently without prior warning to Bryant, CBS switched video coverage to the Pentagon. Bryant kept talking about NYC as I immediately identified the building as the Pentagon. That's when I got truly scared. That's when I realized that this was not limited to New York City and that's when I felt vulnerable. At that point I knew there was no telling whether there would be another attack, and if so, where it would take place. Bryant paused, a very dramatic and unplanned pause, and you could hear the scared and horrified tone in his voice when he said "we are now looking at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C." That was scary. Shortly thereafter Tandra arrived and we decided to go to Cowley. I was fairly certain I could find coverage on the radio. As it turned out, I would have had a hard time finding anything else.
We went back by her place because she had forgotten something. My friend Miah called me and as we were talking, he said that the tower had collapsed. This was a thought that had never even occurred to me. I remember, I said to him, "it fucking fell??" He said "yeah, just like the Allis Hotel, just like as if it had been imploded." I hung up the phone and went inside the house to turn on the TV. Sure enough, the tower had collapsed. This was a concept, as I mentioned, that had been incomprehensible to me prior to it actually happening. I just couldn't believe it. I knew now that the people in above the impact locations hadn't gotten out at all. A terrible feeling of dread and shock sat heavy in my chest like a lead weight. I remember noticing that a lot of the sirens from emergency vehicles had been silenced.
We got in the car and departed for Ark City. I was certain at this point that the second tower would also collapse, so when it did I was not surprised, but I was even more saddened. All the way down we listened to coverage, speculation, words like "terrorism" and even the name of Bin Laden. It wasn't a difficult conclusion to draw after all, given his 1993 bombing of the garage of that same building. We listened to the reports that the FAA had made a completely unprecedented move by grounding every single American flight. It was just another shocking piece of evidence to make me realize just how huge this event really was. As we came back towards Wichita, we could see in the distance a jet descending into Wichita Mid-Continent. I remember being impressed by how quickly the air traffic in the U.S. cleared the sky.
Later on Tandra's son who was three at the time was playing in the backseat when he said something about "this plane is gonna fly into a building." Obviously that got our attention, and Tandra said "why is that?" He said "because that's what planes do." We had to explain to him that this was a very sad day and that planes don't generally fly into buildings. I spoke to him again this morning as he tried to turn on the Playstation while we were watching coverage of the memorial. I asked him if he remembered that sad day when a plane flew into a building and lots of people died. He nodded his head, and I told him that it had happened exactly one year ago today. I explained that lots of people including mommy and me wanted to watch this and remember that day. He seemed to be okay with that. I'm not sure how fully he comprehended it.
At the time and even for a week or two afterwards, I didn't think about the fact that I had been alive during a major event in U.S. History. I didn't think about the fact that pictures of the WTC, burning and collapsing, would be in every U.S. History book published from now on. It didn't occur to me that this was our generation's Pearl Harbor. I did know one thing right away though: I knew that our country would find who was responsible for this attack, and that when we did, we would wage war against them. And I support this. I support the disintegration of terrorist networks, even if it means pre-emptive strikes. Even if it means taking out Saddam Hussein before he does anything tangible against us. Before he finances another terrorist group. I trust our government when they say they have sufficient evidence to prove that he is a threat.
After the attack I was walking through a Wal-Mart and I walked past a group of Middle-Eastern people. I never felt any animosity towards them. I knew that the people who had done this were a fringe group of radicals. The feeling I had when I walked past them was a feeling of sympathy. I felt bad for them because I knew there were a lot of people who didn't feel the way I did. I bet they took a lot of ugly stares and maybe even some harsh words right there in Wal-Mart, just because of their ethnicity. Muslim or not, Arab or not, they had to endure that, and I felt badly for them.
And, contrary to what appears to be popular opinion, I think George Dubya Bush and Rudolph Giuliani are heroes.