So, it's four years later.
I remember not finding out what had happened until about five in the evening. I was at William & Mary and in my usual study-haze. Everyone looked shell-shocked. I remember walking around the campus and knowing that something was wrong, but not wanting to know what. I went to my morning Logic class and the prof said to the class: "I want to thank you for coming here today. You don't have to be here." It sure seemed nice of him. Was there some big party the night before?
That evening, my German History class was cancelled. Our professor's son worked in the Trade Center, and the family was frantically trying to contact one another. Eventually, they did. But, the relief bank his charity was planning to build in West Africa would never get built. By this point, the curiousity got the better of me. I wandered into one of the many student lounges where CNN was on. First thing I saw: "Trade Centers hit by planes. Both towers collapse." Holy shit! Right away, waves of dread washed over me. This was war, wasn't it?
The next few weeks were a blur. Too much CNN, too many candles. Too little time to let it all sink in. It seemed like every time I tried to think about it, I was being dragged to another candle-light vigil. What was going on? Were we at war or not? Were we all going to die? Wouldn't someone leave me alone to finish my damned homework?
Everything was supposed to change. But, did it really? So many people date their intellectual awakening to 9-11, but so many more seem to have stopped thinking that day. Both the right and the left have huge segments that live in mortal fear of people who disagree with them. They huddle by their campfires and howl at the shadows of trees. But, weren't the 80s the same way? A few differences: Muammar Qaddafi is our good friend now, and less than %40 of the country is happy with the President. Less breakdancers too. But, the paranoia is there. Do we like being afraid? Are our lives boring otherwise?
And, sure enough, we're at war. The war in Afghanistan seemed to go well, until... well, we lost interest. It's no offence to the Afghanis; we're just not that into them anymore. Now, we're steadily losing interest in Iraq. Maybe we're just losing in Iraq. It's hard to tell, and nobody wants to give us a straight answer. Maybe we're ready to move onto Iran. Or Korea. You'd be surprised at how many columnists are pushing for other wars. And the government seems to be the robot at the end of the Terminator- the skin-mask has been blasted off, and it's suffered serious damage, but it keeps mindlessly walking forward and shooting everything it can. The Hurricane has finally destroyed any thought many of us had that this government might still be better than no government. Maybe it's time to move on. Start over someplace new, and leave the crazies to shoot out their TV sets whenever Barbara Streisand comes on. Sometimes, you have to let the babies have their toys. But, let someone else change their diapers.
So, maybe some things did change.
But, already I've started to wonder how long it will be until we forget. This was supposed to be the worst thing that had happened to us since Pearl Harbor. But, how many of us remember Pearl Harbor? Sometimes, being a history student feels a bit like studying some arcane language, or being a sci-fi fanatic. How long until the wave of trivia washes away our memories? Did you know that 50 Cent doesn't get on well with Ja Rule? Or that Usher doesn't approve of Kanye West?
The other day, I had someone say this to me: "Well, our meeting is going to be on November 22nd. I don't know why we're telling all of you that now. I have no idea how you could remember November 22nd!"
And she really had no idea.