I was once a young girl, following various dreams, sure of where they would take me.
I was once a civilian, who had no dreams of an association with the military, who didn’t care a lick about about how long the war would take, how long the president would take to respond or how it would take it’s toll on our nation, because I was youthfully self absorbed in my own life.
A few short months later, I was standing in Time Square while visiting a friend at college. I was still very critical of those who honked their horns at the people holding signs on the street corner in support of patriotism… I knew what would happen. Each day, those horn honks would be come fewer and fewer, and those sign holders would be out there less and less. Then one day, the patriotism would fade from their lives and quickly as it burned in their hearts, overnight. I refused to be a false patriot, I would not hold any signs on street corners, nor honk if I couldn’t count on my own heart to mean it each day after.
So, there I was, standing in Time Square, on a cool night, when the world went quiet. I paused, unsure of what was happening. I looked around me and saw it. The entire population of Time Square, in Manhattan, in New York City, was quiet and still, facing the giant screen in the center.
We stood there, quietly, afraid to talk, as President Bush issued his 48 hour ultimatum. I knew in that moment, that our world had changed. I knew, as surly as I sensed the tension in the air, that I was not a false patriot, who would forget tomorrow what I had witnessed.
I was in a television studio audience, when filming stopped and a production assistant came onto the stage to tell us that the US had begun to bomb Iraq. And I knew in that moment, that who I was, I would never be again.
I did not know that I would marry a Marine a few years later. I hadn’t met him yet, and he hadn’t enlisted yet. But I was no longer that young girl, who sat on a couch and watched the Towers fall, unsure of how that would effect my life long term. I was no longer that college student who knew the world was changing, but didn’t think it would change me.
I can never be the girl who was separate from the war or 9/11 again. But I had no idea how deeply ingrained these things would become in me, how they would be come apart of the air I breath and the daily life I lead.
I look back on that day and each day after. I think of the moment in Time Square that changed how I thought of my own self and I wonder how many still reflect on who they were 11 years ago so deeply. How many of us, who are not married to the military or have lost loved ones associated with 9/11 and the resulting war, think about how the world has changed every year on the same date. It changed in an instant, and it changed the course of the lives of more people than we will ever realize.
That girl, the one I don’t recognize from my pictures of that trip, is a stranger. Not because she is so young, but because who she once was disappeared in seconds and was lost in the smattering of the rain on a cold night in New York city. But she began to crumble on a strangely sunny day back in September when she watched an event unfold on live television that she didn’t really understand.
** I write each year from my own perspective. I choose to not speak on behalf of others, and feel that the best way to remember 9/11, is through the first hand stories shared by those who have had the events effect their life, no matter how the association. It is through these stories that future generations will learn what life was like before and after.