I’ve been saying all week that Sunday is going to be my new blog-post day, and then I sat down to write and what I had planned to write just didn’t come out. Because my mind is on something else, and much more difficult to write about.
My mind is, in fact, about forty miles away, sitting in a choir room, watching the TV in total silence. Up until that day, I didn’t even know that the TV in that room worked. The walls are beige. The carpet is gray. I’m in a music theory class. I’m seventeen.
Today– like most of you– my mind is ten years ago.
I think about where I was, and it’s one of those moments and days that I can recall effortlessly and replay in my mind flawlessly. I was in Mr. Anderson, my drama teacher’s, room, chatting about something completely forgettable before school when the first plane hit. A girl came in and told us that she’d heard it on her car radio, and that she thought it was a prank. We turned on the TV, and there was the footage on CNN. The room got very, very quiet, and Mr. Anderson put his hand on my shoulder and told me that I should probably get to class.
I went to my music theory class, and my mind was totally blank. I told Mr. Hays, my choir director, what happened and we turned on the TV. There were only three other kids in my class that day, all boys, and we sat down together and watched.
You know what it’s like watching CNN. After awhile, they all just start reciting the same stuff they’ve all ready said, cycling back through it, and so the five of us in the music room got to talking. At that point, no one knew for sure that the plane had been hijacked. There was still speculation that there’d been some malfunction– some terrible, terrible accident. And we were talking about that– about what a horrible accident it was. We thought something must have happened to the plane’s computers– even if the pilot had a heart attack or aneurysm, wouldn’t auto-pilot take over? And as we were mulling this all over, the second plane hit.
The room was completely silent. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, but I started to cry. My friend, Gweedo, put his hand on my shoulder, but didn’t say a word. We were all thinking the same thing: no accident. This is for real.
You have to know something about me. I was raised in a small, conservative town, by hippies. I’d always been taught that peace was the answer to every conceivable problem– that no matter what a solution could be found, that there was not ever, never ever ever, a reason for violence, and I had believed that wholeheartedly. When I was very young, and the first Dessert Storm happened, my parents sat us down in front of the TV so that we could see what war looked like. And I remember being confused– who were the good guys? My dad shrugged, pointed at the screen, and said, “They’re all just guys.”
When the third plane hit the Pentagon, I honestly believed that that was it. I thought that any moment, men with semi-automatic weapons were going to come in and take over. I believed that in the next few years, I would have to learn a new language, I’d have to adopt a new religion, I’d have to wear different clothes and live in the streets. I’d seen all kinds of war documentaries about occupied countries, and I thought that was about to happen to me.
It didn’t, obviously. But while I sat there, thinking that my way of life was about to be so threatened– I was ready to go to war myself. The boys in the room agreed with me– and one of them actually did join the service and is stationed in Europe right now.
Now ten years has passed. The entirety of that ten years, my country has been at war. I haven’t had to learn any new languages, or live in fear of machine guns or having to adopt a new religion.
My new fear is a lot more realistic, though. My new fear is that my daughter, who was born almost nine years after the attacks, might never know a peaceful world. Even worse, she might never live in a time where her country is not at war.
When I went home that night, a picture frame that my mom kept on the piano struck me. It’s one of those photo frames that has three panels, and she kept the current school picture of each of us kids in it. My brother had graduated a year and a half ago, so his senior school picture was in the frame, his long blonde hair curling at his shoulders, his crooked grin, freckled nose. It occurred to me that he was exactly the right age for the army. That if they reinstated the draft, he would have to go. That maybe he would want to enlist, that maybe he would want to go. I thought about all the people who had died that day in the towers, and about all the people who were going to die if we declared war.
It’s been ten years. Ten years. And it should be said, guys– I don’t want my brother, or anyone’s brother, husband, sister, child, or parent, to go to war.
I have such a respect for our military. One of my best friends is a military wife, and I can’t imagine the stress and sacrifice that that takes. And I don’t think that it’s disrespectful to our military to say that I want them safe, and at home. I don’t see how it is un-patriotic to say that I think that our war(s) are not really solving anything, that if they could solve anything it would have happened by now.
It is true that we are not, and have not ever been, an occupied country. No one took us over that day– if that was their intent in the first place. But I don’t feel– as a citizen– that a crazy rich guy, with enough dedication and resources, couldn’t get away with it again. I don’t think that anyone wants to be honest about why the attacks happened in the first place. And I don’t think that anyone is being honest now about what we’re still fighting for.
I’m just an old hippie. But I think that it may be time to try something else.