Twelve years ago yesterday, I had arrived back in Waynesboro from a two-week trip to Mexico. I had enough leave and a brand new Jeep Wrangler that I wanted to show my dad, so I drove down there (all 20+ hours of actual driving time) and then drove back at the end of the two weeks. I arrived on Monday night, somewhat late. I was exhausted from all the driving, and I had to work the next day at 4pm. So I went to bed and blacked out the world.
The following morning, September 11, 2001, I woke up still a little tired, but I knew that I had to wake up then (around 9am) or I would be all sorts of out of phase for the my upcoming work week. My morning routine was “routine.” I’d turn on the news (CNN or Fox News*) and have it in the background as I made myself breakfast and checked my email. These were the days before social media, so all I had to connect to the world was email.
I was in the kitchen when the voice of the reporter seemed too distressed to be normal. It was somewhere between screams of horror and trying to remain professional. I looked out the kitchen door to the living room to the sight of the Twin Towers on fire. By the time I sat down to see what was happening, both towers had been hit. A few minutes later, I stared in horror as the images of the first tower coming down were broadcast… Then the images of the second one.
I sat on that couch for hours.
By the time it was 3pm and I had to get ready for work at the hospital, we all knew what had happened, more or less.
It’s been twelve years since, and the images of that day are very much in my memory. Even the days and weeks after that day are engrained in my mind. I remember telling the girl I was dating at that time that I really did feel like someone was out to kill me. It was traumatizing to me, so I can’t even imagine how it was to the millions of people in New York City on that day… And since that day.
The lessons since are still being learned. We’re still learning to trust our leaders to protect us, to tell us the truth about going to war, and to be fair on the application of laws here at home and abroad. We’re still learning that our leaders can lie and mislead, that they can be quick to pull the trigger on the mightiest war machine in the world, and that they will treat some as less than human in the application of justice.
This all makes me wonder how history will be written about September 11, 2001 in, say, 2101. I wonder how the Iraq War and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan will be viewed through the prism of a hundred years. And what about all that is going on now in Syria and other countries as their people rise against despots… Will the voices of the thousands killed be ever heard?
*Fox News?! I know, right?
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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