Today, 10 years ago

I lost all my blog entries prior to 2002 when I made the switch to MovableType — the first entry being “Sorry, I don’t have the time to import all my old stuff, but no one probably cares anyway.” I was probably right, but I went searching there to confirm my hunch that I never blogged about 9/11, and even though there wasn’t proof, I don’t think I ever did.

So, although I’m late to the game posting this late at night, and everyone has opinions on media saturation of the 10th anniversary, I feel compelled to put my remembrances here, if not only to look back on in the next 10 years. (Note: Save backups of WordPress archives!) And I’ve enjoyed reading everyone else’s thoughts.

It was my senior year of college, and I had a whole one class that Tuesday. It was at 10 AM Central time, so any other Tuesday/Thurdsay, I wouldn’t even be out of bed before 9:15 AM. I take fast showers. On this particular Tuesday, I had a film class with a guy from whom I had borrowed “The Big Lebowski” several weeks earlier, and the guilt was starting to get to me. I planned to watch it that morning.

Possibly the only day those four years of college that I woke up at 7:30 AM was September 11, 2001. I shared a townhouse with my boyfriend at the time, Sean, Chris, Sam, and Sam’s girlfriend at the time, Cassie, was in town. No one else was up.

I went downstairs to the TV room to watch “The Big Lebowski” at around 7:30 AM Central, 8:30 AM Eastern, and I was trying to be quiet. 15 or 20 minutes into the beginning of the movie, our house phone rang. Yes, I am old enough that in college, only one of the five of us (Sean, the coolio) had a cellphone. I thought about answering it, just to keep from waking everyone else up, but Sam got it up in his room.

I didn’t think too much else of it, until five minutes later, Cassie padded down the wooden stairs in her pajamas, looking really distraught.

“My mom just called. She said a plane hit the World Trade Center.”

My heart skipped a beat. As if I don’t have enough of a fear of planes. Stupidly, I didn’t even *think* to call my family, where my dad is a pilot for US Airways, and my aunt is a flight attendant on United. I just wanted to flip on the television and get some more information. Sam joined us on the couch a few minutes later.

By the time we tuned in, both planes had hit, and all news stations were showing that famous chilling footage of the smoke billowing out. So much smoke. The three of us just sat there in silence.

At some point, I went up to Sean’s room, and this part is always awkward to think about. I shook him awake and tearily informed him that two planes had hit buildings in New York City. He blinked, tried to comprehend, and said, “Well, it already happened, right?” And I said, “Well, yeah, the news is still coming in –” And he said, “But it’s over. There’s nothing to see. I can go back to sleep.” And he rolled over.

No offense to Sean. We cool now. Water under the bridge. He’s a great guy in many other respects. But when he broke up with me a few years later, I looked back on that day and thought “Yeah, well, he was a creep on 9/11, so it’s probably for the best.” But I guess you have to let people deal with things their own way.

I went back downstairs to watch the rest of the coverage, and it was just surreal. The newscasters didn’t know what to say. We didn’t know what to say. We didn’t know what else was coming. And then the first tower fell. And I started hysterically crying.

Sam put his arm around me and tried to console me. “They probably blew it up,” he said. “They probably made it go down so it wouldn’t be a danger to anyone else. I mean, think if it had fallen sideways!” I nodded, my head feeling heavy, but it didn’t make sense.
“All those people, though. Did they ALL get out in an hour?”
“I’m sure they did,” he said.

This was before conspiracy theories and far-left or -right spin. When we heard the plane crashed in Pennsylvania, Sam said, again, to be comforting, “I’m sure the military shot it down because it was headed somewhere else, and they prevented something else awful from happening.” My first thought then was the understatement of the decade. That, whatever the cause, this is going to make a lot of people very emotionally charged. And if college kids have a bunch of wild “definite” theories in the first few hours, there are going to be a lot more and a lot crazier theories to come. I had no idea how right I was.

Because I am a goody-goody, I left for class, nearly on time. (I didn’t shower. Shh.)

Campus was eerie. No one was out. I wondered why I was out. Those that were were quiet. I sat in my chair in the lecture hall, and half of the usual students joined us. Our professor wandered in, mouth open, and said, “We can’t be here today,” and dismissed us.

Only then did I rush back home and call my family. I don’t remember much, except for my mom assuring me that everyone we knew was okay, and that the phone was ringing off the hook and we’d talk later, but everyone was fine and she loved me.

I watched a few more hours of coverage in shocked silence, sometimes tearing up again.

At some point, I got an I.M. from my friend Jenn, and we agreed that there was too much craziness going on, and we needed to escape to lunch. We went to some restaurant — Ruby Tuesday’s? — and tried to mourn respectfully together. Which proved to be hard.

The televisions THERE were blasting opinions of callers-in to a local TV station. One after another after another, people of a redneck persuasion were hooting about how we should just go “over there” and blow everyone up. Kill everyone, find people in America who looked like terrorists and kill them, too. I don’t think either of us had much of an appetite.

I’m usually the first to vow revenge. I will hold a grudge for YEARS on you if you spell your name a way I don’t agree with. But I remember thinking that I just wanted to be sad. There was time later to make plans and be mad, but at that point, we didn’t even know who had pulled it off. Terrorists, sure, but there are tons of those with different agendas.

My friend Nathan also, unknowingly, acted in a way that would soon become a known punchline for bandwagon patriotism. Nathan was a theatre kid, dramatic and emotional…and the abbreviation for emotional. Hair covered his eyes, he spoke with a soft drawl, obsessed over Courtney Love, and rolled his eyes at just about anything sentimental.

When I caught him in the front lawn at Vanderbilt, he came running up to me, completely unironically, waving a little American flag. “They were on sale at Wal-Mart!” he exclaimed. “I got five!” He thrust one into my hand. I was happy to have one. I waved it around. I felt proud.

I’m not ashamed. Okay, I’ve heard the stories, the jokes about crying eagles shedding a single tear, and douchebags traveling abroad, constantly breaking into USA! USA! But I felt right then how I still feel now. If you’re proud of where you’re from, as long as you’re not, you know, all xenophobic about it, you should be proud to show it.

Do we roll our eyes when an Australian says Australia is cool? When a British person says they love England? Countries have faults, but we could be a lot worse off. In my opinion, patriotism isn’t lame, it just is a thing. Have it or don’t, but don’t judge me for having pride. I’m not naiive or blind or overly optimistic, and I know this because of how much *I* hate people who are jerks and wish the most pessimistic things on them.

It wasn’t until September 11th that I learned that I had to choose a side or have a soundbite about Patriotism, and if I liked America, I was a stuffy conservative and if I admitted we had some faults, I was a tree-hugging liberal. I never thought it was hokey to wave a little flag around, if that put a tiny patch on a major wound for only a moment.

That night, there was a thunderstorm in Nashville, Tennessee, and Sam and I wanted to watch the end of “The Big Lebowski,” so I could return it to the guy by Thursday. I remember the thunder boomed outside our back window and flashes of light kept startling me. Sam looked at me funny, and I admitted, “I just keep thinking they’re bombs.” Always the reassurer, Sam said, “Lauren, if the terrorists want to kill more people, they’re not gonna come to Nashville.”

It didn’t reassure me, and I kept jumping.

And I still hate that movie. I never thought the rug tied the room together.

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