Sunday, September 10, 2006

Remembering but also looking forward...

September 11, 2001, was a somber day in American history where it became clear that the United States super power was no longer impervious to attack. This turning point in history must be viewed in two ways. First, we must remember the loss of life and the lesson that we are not invincible. Second, we must remember where we have come since being attacked. Those of us who watched need to remember in vibrant detail the events of that terrible morning, but in remembrance of the lives lost, should also recount what we have done since that day in defiance of those who seek to destroy our way of life. This post will do just that, honoring those who died by recounting my memories of where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001, and what I have done since.

Five years ago, I was starting my junior year at Western Illinois University after transferring from a community college in my home town. September 11, 2001, started out like any other Tuesday morning early in the semester when I stumbled out of bed around 7:30 AM central time to get ready for my first class of the day, accounting. I showered and walked back to my room where I had left CNN Headline News on T.V. I continued to get ready for the day, but as I came out of the rest room for the second time, one of the residents living down the hall from my dorm room runs out yelling that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At this point, it's some time around 8 AM central time, around 15 minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 struck World Trade Center Tower 1. At that point, I head into my dorm room in time to see the first moments of the coverage on CNN, including the footage that would follow in the minutes afterward of United Airlines Flight 175 hitting World Trade Center Tower 2 at 8:02 AM, central time. At this point, live footage of the fires in the World Trade Center from varying angles, and eventually aerial views streams across every news channel coming through the university cable network. I skipped breakfast in order to watch the news coverage on several different channels, continually talking with the other people on my floor about what was going on. After watching the news for just over a half hour, I leave for my Accounting class. Very few people show up for class, and the professor is visibly shaken. She leaves the class room to get something from her office, and to find out more of what is going on. She returns to cancel class for the day, mentioning something about the White House being hit, but that she wasn't sure. We know that this doesn't happen, but at the time, it seemed anything was possible. The rest of the day unfolds with the horror of the collapse of WTC Tower 1 and 2. I watched the news for what seemed like the rest of the week without much interruption, except for attending class.

The most vivid memories from that day are my floor mate telling me the towers had been hit, and then watching Flight 175 hit Tower 2. The memory plays out in odd succession, it feels like he yelled down the hall, and I stepped into my room just in time to see the second plane crash. It is a Tuesday I will never forget.

In the last five years, I drove to New York and stayed in Brooklyn over New Years, where I had the chance to walk by the make-shift memorial, I graduated from Western, attended law school where I participated in a variety of activities, graduated from law school, moved to Chicago, and took the Illinois Bar Exam. Life never stopped, nor should it have. The fact that I, along with many others, have accomplished many things, means that the terrorists who attacked the United States five years ago failed to disrupt our lives in a profound way. We must carry on with our lives in defiance of forces that would seek to destroy us. As Americans, we fight terrorism by not giving into the fear it aims to spread. Citizens can also fight the effects of terrorism by being wary of their surroundings. The most important thing that we, as citizens, can be aware of is the direction our leaders are taking us. We must continually question the motives of our leaders when their good intentions erode civil liberties. This combats terrorism by preventing the destruction of libertarian ideals that make this country the United States of America. Giving up these freedoms means that, on some level, the terrorists accomplished their goal. The American way of life depends on its citizens remaining vigilant in the face of adversity, precisely what we must show to those who would seek to destroy us.

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