Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We Remember

It's another clear blue autumn Tuesday, just like it was 11 years ago today.

BEFORE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center seemed a permanent part of the Manhattan skyline. Credit: The Scientific American

Purdue students are remembering 9/11 by placing 2,977 flags around the engineering fountain in memory of those who were killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Credit: Facebook, Purdue.


I was a freshman at Purdue University.

That morning I had been in a Computer Graphics Technology lab for 2 hours, which completed at 9:20am EST. Under a clear blue, cloudless, absolutely quiet sky, I rode my bike home to Windsor Hall. The elderly woman at the cafeteria swiping ID cards asked in an unusually somber way, "How are you doin', hun?" Unaware, I replied, "Great, thanks!" Not usually a breakfast eater, but feeling particularly accomplished after completing my lab, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast of Belgian waffles and fruit at Wood Hall; then I went home to Warren Hall, on the third floor.

There I saw my neighbor, who looked white as a ghost, and told me what was happening. The blood fell from my face into my feet as I fumbled with my keys to get inside and turn on my tiny television; I had just visited NYC that spring with my family. What an unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable moment.

My brain did not allow me to retain the images I saw on my television. I spoke with my family on the phone for hours. The rest of the day was a blur. I had a math class during which our TA was helping us prepare for our first big exam that night, getting formulas wrong on the board, apologizing because he was in ROTC and he was so distraught over what had happened and could not focus. That evening, a couple hundred of us had to participate in this math exam. Had I known about a candlelight vigil that apparently went on that night, I would have done that instead, because most of us failed anyway or performed very badly, only able to think about what had happened, and what it might mean for the future.

In our very vulnerable state, having left our homes for the first time to attend college at Purdue, we had our world views shaken and our sense of immunity to terrorism destroyed. But I do remember the sense of community that we had, the pulling together, the sense that we could emerge a better, stronger people than ever before, and I gained that sense of country and world perspective that year at Purdue. And, we prayed for those who were lost, and still do.

No comments: