My dad woke me up with a strange question: “You know the World Trade Center?”
I creakily replied yes. “It’s on fire.”
I rush out of bed and spend an hour in front of the TV. My mom was already gone, but she kept calling back. The Pentagon, Pennsylvania, then they were gone. The fact that America’s 2nd and 3rd tallest buildings, which had long replaced the Empire State Building as media shorthand for “New York,” just weren’t there. She worried that maybe I shouldn’t go to school. So many questions.
My Dad took me to middle school this one time; we were listening to NPR– a booming voice was calling out, slightly garbled, “We will topple your cities, destroy your churches and slaughter your children.” I get out, and the rest of the day was spent talking about what was going on. It was the second day of school.
My main teacher (and future political football), Ms. Jaeger, tried to keep us calm by playing some music. She seemed to have brought a mix CD, I don’t know why or when she prepared it, but this was the one song I remembered. The whole day was spent wondering: Who did this? They hit the Statue of Liberty? Where is the fifth plane? We kept waiting for a fifth plane to hit, the assumption that there was such a thing went hand in hand with the assumption that this would keep happening every day, and maybe they would start hitting schools. This was how we were going to live now.
On the way home I picked up one of those American flags for our car window.
“Why they hate us” never came into the picture. The first time I heard that question was on CNN, because from our perspective it didn’t matter. And if it happened now, it still wouldn’t.
Next: America’s musical depression gets worse, but the result isn’t all bad.