Okay so it's a day late, so sue me.
At this point in most Americans lives I imaghine, it's hard not to miss the fact that it's been ten years since 9/11. I wonder if the terrorists really did think that it would be a grand joke that the date September 11, 2001 would include the numbers 9-1-1 and that that just happened to be the telephone emergency number. Bah, at this point who cares? But we did at one point, on that terrible day.
It's kind of funny, I've never really thought of myself as someone who would be touched by historical events. Prior to 9/11/01, the single most historic thing that had ever happened to me had been when John Glenn had gone back into space aboard the Space Shuttle. That was in 1998. Well, that and maybe the premiere of Star Wars Episode I in May 1999 (probably the most anticipated premiere in the last fifty years). The Oklahoma City bombing had occurred in 1995 but, again, I was too young to know or care about it (perhaps it is slightly ironic that Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection exactly three months before 9/11). I was too young to care about when the World Trade Center had been originally bombed back in 1993. Too young to vote for Presidents Bush or Clinton, to have seen any of favorite 80's movies in the theaters. Return of the Jedi would come out about three years before I'd even be born. I'd never seen a Van Halen concert or a Hendrix concert, didn't care about the O.J. Simpson murder trial, and never saw an Apollo lunar landing. My parents had only been married for about 7 months when the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. And of course, my grandparents were barely out of college when Pearl Harbor was bombed in World War II.
Oh, well there was Gulf War I, but again, I was too little at the time to care about a distant war on the other side of the world. At five years old, 1st Grade was my biggest concern. Or would it be Kindergarten at that age? Meh, whatever.
So what was I doing on the fateful morning? Well, things were going like they usually were. Dad was off at work at Kennedy Space Center. mom had taken me to Seminary, which I had just started as part of being a High School freshman (in September 2001 I would have been a month away from turning fifteen). We got back from the teacher's house probably around 7:30 or so. I can't remember if my brother was with us or if we had left him at home to sleep. We had breakfast and got down to work on our school lessons (we were both being homeschooled that year; starting with my brother's freshman year, we went back to real school). Mom was moving back and forth between the living room, kitchen and den doing her mom things and watching Good Morning America. She must have either missed it, GMA didn't hear about it until later or maybe she didn't turn it on until just before the second plane hit, I can't quite remember. What I do remember is Mom telling us to come and see the TV, that the World Trade Center was on fire. That's certainly what it looked like, scary but not especially so, not when you didn't have all the facts. A short time later, I heard Mom suddenly yelling, "Boys! Boys! Come here quick! A plane just crashed into the Twin Towers!" We rushed into see that now both towers were burning, plumes of volcanic-looking smoke belching into the air. It was certainly surreal, the kind of thing you're supposed to see in movies and TV shows, not real life. But at that time we didn't know what was going to happen next, that the true horror had only just begun.
About an hour later, the first of the towers collapsed. I have a memory of watching this on TV but I can't quite remember if I watched the first tower collapse or the second one. In any case, it was plainly obvious that hundreds, probably thousands of real living people had just died on live television. We called people. Our grandparents and many of dad's family live here in Utah and when the second plane hit, it would have been just past seven in the morning there. Certainly everyone was up when the towers collapsed. Across the Atlantic, my mother's family lives in England. When the first plane hit the Trade Center it would have been about quarter to four in the afternoon there. I called many of my friends, one of them passing on one of the many erroneous stories of the day, that a bomb had been placed on the National Mall in Washington DC. I think many of us, so far away from New York, just wanted something to do so we didn't have to watch all this on TV the whole time.
For my Dad, it had been a normal day at work. He alternates his time between a building at Kennedy Space Center called the ARF and a lab building in amongst the old rocket hangars at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The normal day eneded as he describes it, when someone ran in and said that it was all over the TV and radio that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. After that people pretty much abandoned work and listened to whatever they could. KSC was in lockdown anyway. I'm sure, for the three of us back home the thought crossed our minds more than once if there were going to be attacks against KSC. It's not so far out of the realm of possibility you know. In 1972 terrorists called Black September threatened the Apollo 17 Saturn V. No small threat considering that a fully-fueled Saturn V would have exploded with the force of a small nuclear bomb. In any case, as I recall, Dad didn't come home until late that night and then we stayed up watching the news channels about the aftermath of the attack. I think we all knew at that point that this meant war.
So that's the story and the memories, imperfect as they are. And here we are ten years later. Is the world a better place? To be fair, there has never been another attack of the same scale on US soil. I think many people are forgetting that. But what else? We've fought two wars and soldiers in those wars have died. In my own personal opinion, the war with the Taliban was completely justified and a little more so when we finally killed bin Laden back in May (caught and compromised to a permanent end according to WWE champ John Cena). The war in Iraq... well that's a whole 'nother can of worms that we'll not get into at this time. But to me, the world has pretty much been going downhill ever since 9/11, with a few exceptions here and there. About a year after 9/11, the Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed on reentry, due largely to managerial incompetence at NASA and the nation's pride took another blow. Now here we are in 2011 and the Space Shuttle has been shut down with no viable replacement (thanks largely to the Obama Administration and more incompetence at NASA). Thank heaven my Dad is already close to retirement.
There are bright spots. The WTC is being rebuilt and the new 1 World Trade Center will be finished in 2014 with the rest soon to follow. I've served a mission for my church and Savior, as has my brother and our cousins. One of my eldest cousins is about have his first kid. My family are still in good health for the most part and Dad has a job. What the next ten years will bring is anyone's guess but I'm not too worried. We got through 9/11 and we can get through more. For all our flaws, we're the United States of America. It's what we do.