Throughout my life, a number of dates have been important. Only a few have brought about immediate associations and most of them have been happy and pleasant. December 25. January 1. March 17. July 4. October 31.
I’m sure I could come up with a few others, including my birthday, but regardless, there aren’t many dates that leave me feeling anxious and feeling melancholy. December 7 – Pearl Harbor Day. For sure, that was one, but the events in Hawaii were so distant by the time I was growing up, I never associated much with that date, other than the start of WWII.
But, September 11. Already, you’ve got thoughts running through your head. It may be visions of airplanes crashing into supposedly indestructible buildings. Perhaps you see people running through the streets of New York, covered in ash and rubble. Maybe it’s the candlelight vigils that took place all around the country that evening or the visual of firefighters raising an American flag at Ground Zero.
We’ve all got those memories. Thanks to modern-day media, we all can share in the memories of that day.
I had just graduated from college months earlier, but stayed in the area and worked basically as a graduate assistant at WONU, the college’s radio station outside Chicago. My wife had to finish up her student teaching, so I needed a job and they were wonderful in keeping me on for another year after graduation.
In the fall, of 2001, I was working as a Morning Show Producer – gathering information for the on-air personalities. While our signal went into Chicago, we didn’t have a huge audience. That meant that in September of that year, we were still behind a little technologically. We didn’t have a TV at the station. Not until that day.
As soon as a few listeners called in with the news, the morning weather guy ran to get a TV from his office and hooked it up in the hall just outside the studio. We had it on for a few minutes and then the second plane hit the towers.
We were gutted. How could this be happening?
The rest of the day is a bit of a haze at this point, but I remember we set up a few more TVs and most of the day I found myself stopping to watch the tragedies unfold across the country. We were all amazed that this could be happening – here in our country. Wordless…silent…we watched as the shape of our country changed before our eyes. The early thoughts of a commuter plane or of an accident faded as it became clear that America was under attack.
In the years since, the memories have faded, but the emotions are still vibrant when the anniversary comes around each year. I am a teacher now and every year my students’ memories are more and more distant. This year I have students that were between 2 and 6 on that day. To them, it is now history. To me, it was an important event – a milestone that affected my life forever.