September 11, 2001 has many meanings for many people. For me, it was a day when reality struck – hard. I was a senior at Fairfield Prep down in southern Connecticut when my world changed. While thankfully nobody I knew personally was killed in the attacks, my safety blanket was torn off and I was exposed to the reality that I was in invulnerable. Less than 50 miles away from where I sat, two aircraft had struck the largest buildings in my favorite city in the universe.
I remember the day as if it were yesterday. My friend Mike and I were sitting in the school cafeteria when one of my staff writers of the school newspaper (I was the editor-in-chief at the time) approached us and informed us of the breaking news in New York and Washington. We were very critical of the very idea and took the news as some kind of sick joke and just passed it off as nothing.T About twenty-minutes later as our free period ended and we had to report to our respected homerooms, we saw the horrors of the day unfolding live in the Dean of Student’s office – it was very surreal. One of the teachers I admired most was crying and people just stood and stared as but one tower remained standing with smoke billowing from the upper floors.
Immediately following the start of homeroom, the Jesuit-secondary school became engulfed in stories of the day’s developments. Finally, the uncertainty of it all was broken as our school’s President began speaking over the P.A. system and informed us all what was currently unfolding. He said that while parts Fairfield University was closing early, we shared our campus with the University, we would not be. However, he remarked that anyone who wished to could leave early and with those words, the great majority of the senior class, myself included, slowly and quietly left the main academic buildings as we approached our waiting vehicles.
The moments that followed had never before or have since been felt at our small school. A sense of family overcame us all as we each asked each other if anyone we knew were in New York City at the time. My high school was composed of students from Greenwich on westward to New Haven and north and many of our parents worked in Manhattan. None of us immediately left the campus but rather remained and switched back and forth between news stations trying to differentiate rumor with fact. Some stations were inaccurately reporting that planes were down in Houston, a car bomb had gone off in front of the State Department in Washington, several planes were missing and so on. It was a very frightening experience for all involved. After getting in contact with my Mom and Aunt Betty, I decided to go home and watched the most horrible images of my young life.
By the time I got home, both towers had fallen but I had the opportunity to view many instant replays, which were horrendous to watch, but I had to watch. To think that people were actually jumping out of 110-story towers voluntarily because they realized that was their BETTER option was simply mind-boggling. To see fire fighters going into the fiery hell that was the World Trade Center left me with a feeling I never felt before.T I never before realized how much the fire department did for all of us before but I certainly did after.
Before that tragic day, I naively believed that the world that I had inherited was safe from danger but I realized I was wrong. Just the day before the attacks, we talked about how fortunate we all were that a draft was not possible and very few major conflicts were likely in the near future. Boy was I freaked out after I saw the towers come down.
For me, the twin towers represented my childhood and my naivety both of which came to a sudden and immediate end that clear Tuesday morning. No longer did I believe that no harm could reach me in the greatest metropolitan area in the world nor did I believe that my country was immune from an outside attack.
For the first time in my life, I was really scared of what was about to happen. If these people could take down four major airliners with box-cutters what could, and even worse, would they do next?
So much had changed in an instant – I was longer live in the mind-set of a child but rather now of a man. I finally realized that all I was learning in class that we all constantly had to be prepared and that people hated us with all their being was true. I learned more about the world in that one day than perhaps in my entire academic career.
While I became much more patriotic following the attacks, I did not blindly agree with everything that Washington and the Bush administration was telling us. For example, I do not believe that the terrorists attacked the United States because they hate freedom – I believe that they just crave freedom so tremendously they will stop and nothing to try to get it and in their mind’s they think that by attacking the US, they may get freedom more quickly.
As we go around the world in an attempt to crush terrorism, we must be responsible. We must not cloud our views or objectives into something else. The only way that we can ever hope to crush global terrorism is through a constant, clear and powerful assault on terrorists wherever they go around the world while being mindful of not attacking other countries under the false premise that they are associated with terrorism. That would only take our eyes off of our main objective and open a hole in our defenses – a hole that the terrorists would surely jump at using against us.