Tonight on the eve of September 11th, I find myself thinking about where I was when my grandmother called to tell my dad a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. We were getting ready for school. Collected in my parents bathroom playing musical sinks; one for face-washing, the other one outfitted with three toothbrushes and a brand new tube of Aquafresh. We turned the news on just in time to watch the second plane slam into the South tower. Suddenly, a terrible accident was morphed by the realization that this act had been not in error but with intent. My father’s hand flew to cover his mouth in shock, brushing the toothpaste from his mustache in the process. He stood there in just a pair of pants. No socks, no shoes, no shirt. Our toothbrushes stayed clamped between our molars and our hands hung useless at our sides. We could not look away as scared tourists ran from the onslaught of debris as the buildings melted from the inside and fell to the ground. We gasped as “The Falling Man” was frozen in a downward free fall by the lens of a photographer’s camera.
More breaking news showed a gaping hole in the side of the pentagon; another plane wrestled from the hands of terrorists and to the ground before it could reach its intended destination. We didn’t go to school. My dad stayed home from work. Our day was filled with the buzz of silent panic, the horror repeated on the television for hours on end was our soundtrack.
In the moment we didn’t know just how much the American landscape had changed. The New York skyline, missing those two, distinct buildings was just the beginning. We were unaware that the 2,996 collective deaths were just the beginning of a mentality that continues to scar us even now, twelve years later. Our history books had yet to be rewritten. We could not yet see the underbelly of terrified ignorance rearing up against Muslim Americans all over our country. We could not calculate the causalities of an impending war. The shoe bomber was not a household name. We had not yet been shocked and awed by the bombing of Baghdad. We didn’t know that every year a great knot would grow in the stomach of every American as the date turned from September 10th to the 11th. We were unaware that we would hold our collective breaths, waiting for this day to pass without incident, each distant siren conjuring a twinge of adrenaline panic behind the breastbone of everyone within earshot.