Last night, I started watching this video that had a timeline of clips of the news coverage on 9/11. After watching the first clip from 7am, before the attacks occurred, I was struck by how normal the day started out. How the upbeat words "Good Morning, America . . . it's Tuesday, September 11, 2001" seem so out of place now. I wanted to stop the video then, as if that would somehow stop the events that took place.
For a generation of Americans, that day will be forever shrouded in heartbreak and vulnerability. I was looking back at my journal entries as I was living in DC as a college student, and I think they do well at capturing my thoughts and emotions:
Tuesday, September 11: I was awakened by my roommate at around 10am as he flipped on the TV and told me that two planes had been flown into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. We soon learned that another plane had been flown into the Pentagon building, only a couple of miles from the apartment in which I am writing this right now. And a fourth plane went down in Pennsylvania which was supposedly also headed here to DC, reportedly headed for either the White House or the Capitol building. . . . It is a very scary thought of all the lives that have been lost through these attacks. What is even more frightening is the possibility of a full-scale war. . . . Never have I even imagined something as drastic and traumatic as this event. . . . Many thoughts have been running through my head as I have watched the situation unfold . . . First of all, I love my family. The greatest comforts I have had this day were talking to my mom and dad. Second, nothing material in this world is important . . . Third, I want to do all I can to help the victims of this senseless tragedy. Right now, what that means is getting up early tomorrow to go give blood before class, as there is a blood shortage in New York and here in DC.
Wednesday, September 12, 2001: I went to sleep last night wondering how life could ever go on when I woke up. When I did awaken, the first thing I did was turn on the TV again. But after only a minute or two, I had had enough and had to get out. Going to class today was a blessing to get our minds off of these horrible events. Tonight, I went to a candlelight vigil on campus. . . It was an encouraging sight. I have never seen so many students at this campus come together as one. . . . Life will never be the same, but life will go on.
Thursday, September 13, 2001: The air is kind of still today as the situation is assessed, but it seems only a matter of time before retaliation. It's a nervous time to be here in the nation's capital. Pres. Hinckley is giving a satellite broadcast tomorrow and I am looking forward to hearing his words.
Friday, September 14, 2001: I didn't go to class today. But I did attend a satellite broadcast from the church headquarters in Salt Lake City, because President George W. Bush declared today a day of mourning and prayer. At the broadcast, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke and what caught my attention most was, instead of denouncing violence or retaliation, he said something to the effect that America is a land of freedom and we should do whatever we need to do in order to make sure that those freedoms are not taken away.
And, finally, one more entry from a year later:
Wednesday, September 11, 2002: It's been a year since the day that changed the life of every American. Today has been a really sobering day for me. It was really hard to do work today in the office. I didn't even turn the TV on because I didn't want to be bombarded with memories of last year. But I also refrained from putting on any CDs because I felt silence was more appropriate as a tribute of last September 11. . . . It's very strange - I am not sad or emotional, but I am choosing not to watch these shows or talk a lot about things because I feel that, even though this was an event that brought our nation together, the experiences I had were very personal. I have chosen to kind of withdraw from public observance in order to focus on personal contemplation.
Even now, it is difficult for me to watch 9/11 footage because of the memories and emotions it bring up. Memories of nervousness and uncertainty anytime I heard an aircraft fly through the closed airspace in DC. Memories of walking to class and passing armed, stoic military personnel and tanks on about every other corner. Memories of wondering when life would ever get "back to normal," but knowing that, in reality, "normal" itself had changed.
But even though life has changed, it still goes on. I am amazed when I think of all that has transpired in my life since that day. Among other things, I have been blessed with a beautiful wife and baby girl, and I have always had opportunities for growth with work, church and school.
Since 9/11, what "normal" is for me has certainly changed. But it has changed for the better.
(As a reminder, you can still download the song I wrote on 9/11 for free. More information HERE.)