:: Running from the Thought Police ::

Reality-Based Thoughts, Ruminations, and Unsolicited Opinions of a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student alumnus and employee.
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:: Monday, September 11, 2006 ::

Flashbulb Moments

I honestly intended the post below this one to be my final and only word on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Then I went and read Kiyoshi's account and realized that I hadn't shared my own recollections of that day on the blog.

Like Kiyoshi, I was in school during the attacks. My first class of the day was AP Biology and, on Mondays and Wednesdays, or Tuesdays and Thursdays, science courses at Benet Academy run for two periods to allow enough time for labs. We had more double periods than we had labs, though, especially in the beginning of the year, so we were all seated at our desks about ten minutes into second period when the Principal, Mr. Stark, came on the PA. Since we hadn't left the room during the passing period, we'd had no idea what had been going on.

The thing one has to realize about Mr. Stark is that, no matter what he's talking about, he always sounds like someone's just died. So when he asked in his grave voice for all students in the hallways to return to their classrooms, my first thought was that some students were being unusually noisy in the hall.

After giving everyone a minute or two to clear the halls, Mr. Stark then said that he had some terrible news to tell us, and I instantly thought, "Oh my God, someone's shot Bush," but that wasn't what had happened. He proceeded to inform us that two planes had struck the World Trade Center in New York, and another had hit the Pentagon. He then proceeded to lead us all in the Pledge of Allegiance - the first and only time we'd ever said the pledge while I was at that Catholic high school. Following about twenty minutes of various takes on "Holy Shit!" we managed to resume class and actually went over a bit of stuff before the bell rang and we were released into the hall.

My next two classes were Latin and AP Calculus, and though we tried we couldn't convince our teachers for those classes to turn on the television so we could find out what was going on. Instead, classes proceeded normally - which I understand. Life does go on, and it should. Besides, all we did was talk to our friends who'd been in classes with the TVs on to find out what had happened. That's how I found out about the fourth plane in Pennsylvania.

For fifth period I had my history class, America Since 1945, with the head of the History dept. He and the rest of the department had decided that knowing what was happening that day was more important than anything they were going to teach us, so after a brief discussion about flashbulb moments, JFK, and us, we watched the news on NBC. They still had the people from the Today show on, no one had relieved them yet. That's when I first saw the pictures of the towers collapsing, and heard the rumor that later turned out to be false that there was a fifth plane somewhere.

Lunch was next, and it was my turn to tell what I knew to my friends. I went to mass during homeroom, which I hadn't been doing that year, but it seemed appropriate. After College Prep Lit was the last class of the day, Religion. Here too our teachers had chucked their lesson plans. We talked about what happened, how we were feeling, who did it (we knew by that point), the likelihood of a draft, and other things. Then we all went home, since everything after school had been canceled, and we all watched the news.

Like Kiyoshi, my history teacher told us that September 11th would be our flashbulb moment, which we would remember for the rest of lives just like his generation would remember JFK's assassination. I took him at his word then, but as the years go by and my memory fades, I'm not so sure. I mean, I obviously remember more about that day than the rest of that month combined, but I used to be able to recall the exact minute the announcement came on, what I'd had for lunch that day, and other details, all of which have fallen out of my head.

I think my dampened memory of the incident is related to how much of a shock to the system the news was. For Kiyoshi, like many/most people in this country, the idea that a major terrorist attack could occur, involving something so mundane as an airplane, caused a lot of cognitive dissonance and called into question people's ideas of their own identity, political opinions, and religious beliefs.

For me, it called into question my belief that literacy was widespread, 'cos apparently most of my fellow citizens couldn't read the US Flag Code. Somehow, bad things happening here as opposed to some place across an ocean hadn't phased me.

I'd been a liberal before the attacks happened. My parents are liberals, and what I had learned my Junior year of HS about the Consistant Life Ethic merely backed up my belief that while the Democrats weren't perfect, they held closer to most of the ideals of that ethic than the GOP did, and what the GOP did adhere to was merely for electoral gain and not as an outgrowth of their overall political philosophy.

Even with my staunch liberalism, I was prepared to give Bush the benefit of the doubt. He said that we should go on with our lives, because disruption is what the terrorists wanted, and that made sense and I agreed. I supported our invading of Afghanistan and the toppling of the Taliban, bad people who harbored and encouraged the non-state actors who had attacked us.

But then the Patriot Act came, and the freedoms I valued were being eroded. I went off to camp that summer, as I am wont to do, and didn't hear any news for two months straight. When I came back, suddenly Iraq was a big threat to our national security, yet no one could tell me what they had done.

Then came the invasion, and I went out and protested. I've been told that my picture was in the Daily Illini, holding a protest sign and wearing an Eagle Scout shirt. Dissent is patriotic.

At the end of that school year, I started this blog, and you can find out everything else after that just by reading.

In any case, I don't like what my country's become in the past five years. A supposedly freedom-loving nation like ours shouldn't be having serious discussions about whether or not we can ship people off to be tortured, or whether we can violate the Geneva conventions. People who promote a Unitary Executive should be handed a copy of the constitution and laughed out of town, instead of being given due consideration. Our Congress should be zealously guarding its own priveleges and duties, instead of giving ex post facto validation to the illegal activites of the executive.

I'm not a "blame America first" person that you hear the wingers whining about, but our country is sick, and it needs help getting better.

I hope and pray that we can still accomplish that.

:: The Squire 5:13 PM :: email this post :: ::


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