Someone asked, “Where were you?”
Sixteen years ago, the day the world changed, I was physically safe in Texas. I was working out at the St. Edward’s University student gym before class. I glanced at the television, mounted in the corner and saw the Towers that had directed me when I visited the City. Towers that always let you know south from north in no uncertain fashion. I saw smoke billowing from their windows and took off my headphones to hear Katy Couric going on about how there seemed to be a kitchen fire in the top floor dining room. The camera angle was off, but I had worked in kitchens and that was no kitchen fire. Then the second plane slammed into a Tower. I stumbled to the student union and heard about the Pentagon. The sound tunneled. My mouth was dry. I felt dizzy.
I was 26 and had been out of the military a couple years. I don’t remember walking home from university, but I sat on my couch and stared at the news, watched people jump to their deaths rather than die of fire and smoke. So many people the cameras couldn’t avoid the images. I couldn’t turn it off. I got angry when my boyfriend got home and asked me to stop watching. I was terrified and saddened to a depth I couldn’t understand. It couldn’t be happening. Everything ached for all the families. All the loss and grief. It was senseless. As I watched I knew we were going to war and I was scared for so many people.
Over the next few weeks, I seriously considered re-enlisting because the deafening order of the military made more sense than the chaos I was waking to each day. But the propaganda, so much propaganda and anti-Muslim sentiment and hate wouldn’t let me re-enlist. I knew we’d be at war for a very long time. I also knew there was too much oil in the region to morally say it would be just about making things right. Also, somethings can never be made right.
Later, I would work for a law firm and the very new partner I supported had an office overlooking the WTC site. He had been a beat cop, but recently finished his law degree and had just begun practicing law when the Towers came down. He told me that when the firm moved back into the building, no one wanted that office, even though it was a corner spot, “I said, give it to me. I can’t forget that day so I may as well watch it rebuild.”