Day of Days

September 11, 1852. The State of Buenos Aires seceded from Argentina.

That is why there is a 11 de Septiembre street in Buenos Aires.

It’s a jarring date to see on a street sign. September 11, 2001 is likely to go down as the most significant historical event of my lifetime. A day that truly lives in infamy.

Maybe it’s selfish of me to write this. I’m talking about a day from fifteen years ago. That’s half a lifetime.

But, then, how often do I get to say I watched history unfold in real-time?

I remember where I first heard about the attack. I was likely one of the first people in my high school to find out.

First period, Japanese class. I was sitting in my usual seat near the back of the room. My friend had just returned to the desk next to mine. He wasn’t feeling well; having come from the nurse’s office, he told me the radio said that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I pictured some single-engine propeller plane veering off-course in a tragic accident. I told my friend it must have been a fictional radio program, and didn’t think anything else of it.

Ten minutes later, the principal announced over the intercom that a plane had struck the World Trade Center.

It was not even 9:00 AM. School wouldn’t let out until 4:30 PM.

Eyes were glued to the news–televisions in every classroom that normally sat blankly in the corner were on CNN, or maybe Fox News. Teachers tried to go on with lessons. Someone thought they heard a missile followed by an explosion. Many cried.

This is not really my story, but it’s one that stands out. My friend’s dad worked in the Pentagon–the friend from Japanese class. He didn’t hear from his father all day. I went home at the end of Tuesday not knowing what happened.

There is bulletproof glass inside the Pentagon. It seems like a typical government extravagance–I can’t imagine a lot of guns are fired inside the Pentagon. On September 11, that glass stopped shrapnel from reaching the office where my friend’s dad worked. When I think about wasteful spending, I remember that, once, it saved a life.

Seth Godin wrote about erosion today. One big event does not reshape the world; the accumulation of small changes does.

September 11 did not define my life. Perhaps the story would be different if I had lost a loved one, but that scenario is beyond my feeble imagination. The changes that mattered accumulated over the fifteen years before, and the fifteen years since–to the point where I can no longer relate to the person who went through the experience.

But I still carry these memories. I wrote them down before, for my own collection. Maybe the world doesn’t need another story about September 11. This is for me to share my own thoughts. To see if I can leave them here. All I have to do is hit “Publish.”


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