There are many things I remember crystal clear about Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. I was a senior at Easton Area High School. Gas was $.88 a gallon at the bottom of the hill by my house. The sky was a perfect blue, no clouds in sight, perfect for my cross-country meet that was scheduled that day. I remember I was in Latin 1, sitting next to Tarin as we watched the carnage happen on TV, and I remember telling her it was Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, as I had read about their actions in the newspapers. I remember being sent back to home room, finally getting in touch with my mom, and how the Principal spent some time at our lunch table discussing the events. I remember the rumors of more planes and more targets. I remember getting home that day, and really realizing what happened. I remember seeing all three crash sites within a month after. I remember the anthrax scare when I was at the Capitol, and being quarantined and tested.
I remember everything, but it was a long time ago now. I’ve graduated high school, college, worked for two Presidents and scores of other politicians since then in a 20 year career in politics. Two wars were fought and ended over those events, since then. I’ve seen the unthinkable since then, my Phillies and my Eagles won championships. Many of my best friends then grew up, got married, and have children now. My dog that we bought but a few months later has now been gone six years, her now 15 year old sister is in her final days, and their younger brother is approaching ten years old. Many of my closest friends in life now, I didn’t meet until several years after those events. I’m approaching 40 now, and the political activism the aftermath of 9/11 inspired in me is history to me now, almost a spark of a different person that long since was buried on some beautiful morning not unlike that one. People change. The world changes. None of us are where we were then.
New York did what only New York could do, getting back up and rebuilding even better than ever. The Pentagon was rebuilt as it had to be, and Washington went on with life. Shanksville today has a beautiful monument in the place where a flight full of people went to their final rest. If you go to Ground Zero today you see a monument to healing and hope, not wreckage and carnage from a soul-shaking attack on us. The world has moved on. It’s moved on many times over.
Of course that’s for the rest of us, and I say that as someone that could get in the car and drive to Ground Zero in under 90 minutes right now. For a lot of people, time never quite did move on. Three-thousand families and friends lost people that day. In the years since the cops and firefighters who ran into those crash sites have suffered agonizingly, some with PTSD, others literally developing cancer from the events. We all still deal with enhanced security in airports and other transit systems that became normal after that. Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the two wars that traced their origins to that day, in Afghanistan and Iraq (even if dubiously). I have friends who gave limbs and their mental health to our country fighting for our cause. Again, thousands of families and friends here in America have someone who gave their life. That’s not even getting into the cost for Iraqi and Afghani families who paid prices. For all of the people I mention here, I wonder if time has passed even closely similar to the rest of us, or if 9/11 is torturously still near, not so distantly gone.
Time passes. That’s inevitable. People do too. That’s also inevitable. Memories don’t. may god bless those for whom this past Sunday wasn’t just a day in the past.