This is a re-post of my diary entry from September 12, 2002 looking back on the events of one year earlier. It’s funny, but I remember things somewhat differently now that ten years have passed. I should write another account of September 11th as I experienced from my point of view today, but I’ll save that for later this week.
Quote of the day:
“The terrorists thought that they could strike fear in America’s heartland, but, through you, the heartland strikes back.”
-Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense (to airmen)
This time last year every channel on television had 24-hour coverage of the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Even MTV was broadcasting their news affiliate instead of the usual music videos. Of course these events were of interest to the nation, but watching smoke pour out of the World Trade Center towers became tiresome after awhile. At the time I couldn’t wait for things to get back to normal.
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Even though a year had passed, September 11, 2001 and September 11, 2002 had one thing in common – comprehensive television news coverage. Even though it was confined to the major networks and a few cable stations this time around, I still had the same reaction. I wanted everything back to normal. (At 1 PM yesterday that meant that I wanted my regularly scheduled programming back because “Days of Our Lives” was supposed to be on.)
There were two things that I did like about yesterday, though. 1) “Little House on the Prairie” marathon in the morning, and 2) “Star Trek: The Next Generation” marathon at night. OK, so I’ve been watching too much TV recently.
For me, September 11, 2001 started like any other day. I was living in Seal Beach during my seven-month internship. I was in the middle of my morning workday routine and I turned on the TV to watch “Little House on the Prairie.” (I love that show.) It was about 6:15 AM Pacific Time and, as it happened, the news was on before I could change the channel. My first impulse was to immediately switch channels but something kept me from doing so and what I saw on the screen made me catch my breath.
It was the World Trade Center billowing smoke. Both towers. It took me a second to figure out what was happening from the unscripted explanation of the news anchors, but I finally discovered that passenger planes had done the damage I was looking at. The phone rang. This was a strange occurrence considering I was the only one awake at that time of the morning (and no one ever calls me then). It was my roommate Sarah’s mom asking me to wake up her daughter. I went back to watching the news. A few minutes later Sarah stumbled out of her bedroom and sat down in front of the TV with me. As we stared in amazement a new story broke – another plane had crashed into the Pentagon.
I left for work at 7 AM, a little later than usual. My favorite radio station was following the crisis as well so I heard dumbfounded updates instead of the witty banter that I was used to. As I turned the corner onto Westminster I heard, “Oh my God, one of the towers just collapsed.” A shudder went down my spine. Several people were crowded around a computer at work trying to load news websites like CNN and MSNBC but getting nothing due to heavy web traffic. This meant that we relied on the people just coming into the office for the latest details. One tower of the World Trade Center had already collapsed. The other followed a short time later. A fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania while, evidently, on route to another target. Terrorism was blamed.
I remember thinking, in the weeks following the attacks, how fiercely patriotic Americans are as a whole. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the Stars and Stripes at least a dozen places, from bumper stickers to billboards to baseball caps. Now, one year later, our attention to the tragedy has waned. Things have gotten pretty much back to normal, if you don’t count how difficult air travel has become. And isn’t “getting back to normal” exactly what I wanted in the first place?