Thursday, September 11, 2014

9-11: A Day Not to be Forgotten

Where were you on September 11, 2001? Like people on December 7, 1941, you probably remember each detail of that day - if you're an American, it was day that should have finally awakened us to the realization that we do not stand above the world, but are a part of it.

On that morning, I was in a hotel in Seattle, Washington, part of a trip I was taking with other colleagues in the Senior Seminar, a former State Department program for senior foreign affairs officials. For some reason, I woke up at 5:30, and for some reason turned on the TV set, which just happened to be tuned to a local channel. The early morning news was on, and I saw an announcer standing in front of a skyscraper with smoke pouring from an upper floor. It took a while for me to recognize the World Trade Center tower, and even longer for me to realize that I wasn't looking at a promo for some new disaster movie.

I was staring dumbfound at the screen when, at 6:03 Seattle time I saw the second plane slicing toward the second tower, and watched live as it knifed through the building, sending flames and debris out the other side from the explosion. My brain refused at first to process what it had just seen - hundreds of people, including all those on board that plane, perished in an instant, and millions were watching it live and in color on their TVs.

The rest of my stay in Seattle is kind of a blur, as are the first few days back in Washington, DC as my colleagues and I wrestled with what to do next. Should we end training and return to our organizations to see if there was anything we could do to help? Or, should we continue our training and try to prepare ourselves to make a difference in the new world that was born out of those fiery explosions? We decided to stay, and for us the rest is kind of history. What I woke up remembering today, though, was just how strange that day was for me.

First, before that when I traveled, when I woke up, I never started my morning with TV, and never with the news. My usual habit was to shave, shower, brush my teeth, and then watch cartoons while I got dressed. I hate to start the day depressed, and news always does that. What made me turn on the TV before even going to the bathroom? I'll never know, but what I do know, is that day - that act - changed my life forever.