Essays Personal

Reactions to the Attacks on September 11, 2001

The American way of life is fragile

The tragedy of Tuesday cast a glaze over me. Immediately following the tragedy, I tried to assess the effects of the tragedy on every scale—the economic implications, the historical implications, and the political implications—but my dominating thoughts were on the now-proven fragile impermanence of our way of life.

I find it difficult to accept the fact that I would have slept through the destruction of America’s foundation Tuesday morning had the attacks continued further. This foundation, principally our economy, military and government, is the sense of comfort that allows us to fall asleep comfortably at night, and to wake peacefully in the morning.

Wake peacefully was exactly what I did Tuesday morning. It’s customary for me, a finance major, to check on my stock portfolio before classes start. Tuesday, however, each of my stocks remained unchanged. Strange, but very possible, I thought. Then I clicked to the market dispatch to learn that planes had been hijacked and aimed like missiles at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

And then the World Trade Center’s South building collapsed.

Just a year earlier, I had passed through the many security checks for the chance to view New York City from atop the World Trade Center’s South building.

If that were the end of the story, one could almost take solace in the fact that such a horrible situation wasn’t worse.

It was.

I then learned that another hijacked plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

And then the World Trade Center’s North tower collapsed.

The onslaught of chaos and terror from every angle, and the threat of the unknown brought a very vivid picture to my mind: the apocalyptic scenes in the movie Independence Day.

The envelope of terror and chaos that shrouded my Tuesday has yet to secede. Every loud noise I hear outside my dorm room window sounds like an airplane. I’m scared. We should all be scared. It was too easy for the terrorists this time. My generation has lost its innocence.

The World Trade Centers—the greatest symbols of the world economy—are gone. It’s still hard for me to believe the events of Tuesday without having seen or felt them in person. And what if the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania had reached its target? Were there more planes ready to be hijacked before the FAA shut down the air system?

The tragedy has affected me like no other newsworthy event I have experienced in my 20 years. The tragedy makes me feel unimportant in the broad scope with which I have viewed the world in the past few days. The tragedy makes me want to do something important. Without the ability to directly help the victims, my best try has been this article, which has taken me so long to write that I can’t even remember what the premises of the first version were.

I feel it’s my duty to respect those directly affected by the tragedy by not goofing off, not moving on, and not doing anything until they do first. Every thought that is not of the tragedy seems to me like a horribly selfish waste of my thoughts.

So I watch, and I wait. For what, I’m not certain. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s worth waiting for because time has stopped for me. Business-as-usual is a phrase that today sounds awkwardly optimistic, but what I wouldn’t give for Tuesday to have been just business-as-usual.