Twenty Years Later

It’s been twenty years since that beautiful, sunny Tuesday morning.

I was at work yesterday, talking to a coworker who was in elementary school when it happened, and then talking to another coworker who hadn’t even been born when it happened, about the day. Thursday evening, I’d watched the History Channel documentary series Road to 9/11 and in the watching, realized two things.

First, that I did work with a lot of people that either hadn’t been born yet or were too young to remember that day.

Second, that twenty years later, I am still processing the trauma.

I could talk about how I still remember more than a few details of that day, how I remember skidding out on my bike that morning in the Arboretum at GVSU and scaring the crap out of some fraternity pledges because I’d gone in and hadn’t come out. How someone in an IRC chat told me to turn on the TV, that I’d returned that favor by calling friends in another dorm and telling them to do the same–and finding myself on the phone with one of them, watching in tandem, as the second plane hit. The Classics department and my Latin professor found out from me what was happening. Staff clustered around every TV they could find and connect to cable or catch the news on–because this was 2001, in the days before phones were smart and before there were TVs everywhere on a college campus, the days before social media.

The trauma was collective, and only grew as word spread.

I don’t remember how many people in that Latin class that morning hadn’t heard yet, but I know I wasn’t the only one who did know. Class lasted for ten minutes. One of the guys ended up joining the service–I’m not sure which one. I never saw him again after that semester.

One sunny Tuesday morning shifted the trajectory of my adulthood and the adulthood of all of my friends, all of my peers. It changed what our tomorrows would hold and altered our futures in ways that we could only imagine. My cousin was in the Air Force at the time, and I can remember worrying about her a lot. As the years went on, several friends ended up in various branches of the armed forces. Several served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don’t know if I would have worried as much if the attacks hadn’t happened.

My mom had the option of puling my youngest siblings out of school that morning before Troy locked down the buildings. She’d been at my elementary school when it happened; she had warning that she could take them if she wanted to. She had been there to do something that morning and she and the front office staff had been watching what was happening in New York on television when the word came. She let my siblings stay with their friends, because she knew. She knew they would need that. I remember talking to my best friend that day–she’d graduated the year before; her brother was locked down at the high school and her parents were locked down at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, where they worked. I don’t remember what I told her. I don’t remember talking to my brother about any of this. He was a senior in high school–his life, and the lives of al of his peers, was altered, too, in ways as profound if not more profound than it was for my friends and I.

We are all still processing the trauma.

8:46am.

Twenty years later.

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