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A Story from 20 Years Ago...

Sep 12, 2021

A short-short story on my experience on 9/11/01, and some questions on how it might or might not relate to today's pandemic + a call to remember our shared humanity.


It's hard to imagine how much has changed over the last 20 years. 

I remember being a Freshman at Purdue, getting up for a 7:30 am planet science class, which was rough because the class felt designed to put you back to sleep (it was so dry - think of Ben Stein rattling off atmosphere statistics for Venus for two weeks). After class, the day is warm, and the smell of fall leaves is in the humid air. I walk back to the dorm to grab some breakfast.

I notice everything seems unusually quiet. Except for the birds. Their chatter and the occasional chorus of cicadas chiming in, amplified by the lack of traffic sounds. "How strange?" I think.

As I get closer to my dorm, I notice a haunting echo of what sounds like a newscast coming from every open window, but I can't make out what's said. So I continue on, wondering what's going in.

I enter my dorm and see my friend Rob who approaches me wide-eyed and asks quietly, "Have you heard the news yet?!"

I shake my head no. "We are under attack." I follow him into a small room with twelve guys huddled around a tv, right when the tv shows the second plane hit the towers.


That's my first memory of 9/11/01. So much has changed since that day 20 years ago, for better and for worse. 

It still feels like not enough people stopped to reflect, "why?"

I still don't have the answer to why did this happen. Why can we unite as a country and divide the world into "us vs. them." Why can we have boots on the ground doing their job and civil and military leaders who don't know what we are trying to accomplish in wars in the Middle East? Why people can "never forget" the 2996 people that perished in the towers and come together for the US but sacrifice nearly 1 million citizens to covid because of 'freedom.'

It's hard remembering a tragedy from 20 years ago while living through another historically tragic event. It's tough not comparing our response to each crisis and wonder out loud if these two events are somehow connected. Or not. But then, why the different reactions to the amount of deaths, suffering, and misery caused by both?

I hope this 9/11, you've taken some time to reflect on what happened, to feel gratitude for your loved ones, to connect with other people's humanity.  Because if we don't, we get a terrorist attack. And if we don't, we will cause more pain, suffering, and misery at home while we are still in danger of a highly contagious and deadly disease.

All that to say, what was your story on 9/11?  How did it impact you, your world view, and what questions do you still have from that event? 

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