I was a sophomore in college on September 11, 2001.
I woke up at 7:30 that Tuesday morning, put on my old Cubs hat, and walked across the campus to my composition course. I still remember the lesson, we were discussing the various types of citation styles, Chicago style, MLA, etc. The class began at 8:15, 8:48 passed and went. Incredibly bored, I stared at the clock and finally got out at 9:30.
Like I did every Tuesday and Thursday, I went to the Villanova University student union for breakfast. The union has dozens of televisions that broadcast the news, sports, and other programming at all times. By 9:30 all of those televisions were tuned to CNN, or the local news. But the only sign I saw that something was amiss was a curious comment from Andreas Bloch.
Bloch was a German member of the basketball team; he had a nice shot but was not overly impressive on the court. My only relevant memory of him was on 9/11. As I walked through the union I overheard Bloch saying something to the tune of “something hit the World Trade Center.”
My first thought was to dismiss the comment. If something significant had happened I would have seen it on CNN.com earlier that morning. Nonetheless, I made my way back to by dorm room to turn on my T.V.
Walking to my building, there was little to indicate that there was anything wrong. It was a crisp, beautiful fall day. I entered my tiny room, turned on my tiny T.V. and immediately saw the helicopters flying around the north tower. It was a close-up shot, and the announcers on CNN had already concluded that it was an act of terror, and were speculating on who would do this.
Like everyone else I was stunned, and remained stunned as the events of the days unfolded one after another. That night I, along with most of the campus, attended a prayer service at the Pavilion (Villanova’s on-campus stadium). On the way home the skies were quiet. Except for the occasional formation of A-10’s flying up and down the east coast, the skies would remain quiet for days.
The next morning I woke up, checked CNN to see if the day before really happened, and went for a run. I was astounded by all the American flags. They were everywhere.
I don’t write this because I think my experience on 9/11 was especially profound or unique. I am sure most can remember that day in minute detail; it was one of those rare moments where every American shared a collective experience. I am sure most remember the fear and confusion in the months and years following 9/11 as well. Because the unfathomable had happened, Americans naturally wondered what other unimaginable thing could come next.
Most memorable to me, however, was the unity that an attack on our own soil, our own unique nation, brought. Eleven years later the oft-dysfunctional and hyper-partisan reality of our politics has returned, yet the United States (and of course Wisconsin) remains an idea more important than any political party or agenda.
The idea that all people have the right to live as they see fit as long as they respect others rights to their opinions and lifestyles is, to me, the idea that was attacked on that Tuesday morning. It is an idea that is worth remembering and reflecting upon on this sad anniversary.