September 11th will never more be just another date on the calendar. For Americans of my generation, it's the event that stunned us, burned forever in our memories the way that our parents recall exactly what they were doing when they found out that John F Kennedy was shot, or our grandparents remember Pearl Harbor. Ten years ago, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua, listening to the radio in the morning while I got ready for the day. I heard something on the news about all airports in the United States being closed, and knew right away something bad was happening. I turned on the TV and CNN en Español was broadcasting live from New York, where the first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. At this point, it was unclear if it was just a freak accident or something more sinister. Moments later, the second plane hit and everyone's worst fears were confirmed.
I spent the rest of the day watching the news, trying to figure out what had happened, and worrying about my friends in New York City and my father, who travels frequently (I knew one of the planes had left from Boston). The town where I lived only had one phone, and I did manage to get in touch with my parents. The next day, I headed into the city to get together with my Peace Corps friends to share information we were getting from back home, and to just be together- it was a strange time to be living overseas, and everything felt a bit confusing and surreal, as I'm sure it would have no matter where you were located. "Dark days ahead" was the message my friend Courtney received in an email from her uncle.
On this anniversary, I'm living overseas again, on the outside looking in, partly spared the inundation of 9-11 reflections and commentaries sure to be taking over the headlines and airways back home. Praise for the bravery and kindness of ordinary people caught in a nightmare, derision for those who used the tragedy for political or personal gain, over the top rah-rah nevar forget! patriotism, and callous cynicism of those who claim we had it coming. I suppose I still haven't sorted out my own feeling on the subject, other than sympathy for those who died and their families, and a vague wish that the feeling of unity and goodwill that rose up out of the aftermath could have lasted longer than it did.