Friday, September 11, 2009


The people of our generation did not live in fear when we were children. We didn't routinely have air raid sirens tested, we didn't have to learn how to hide under our desks. We didn't spend time in bomb shelters. We didn't lose family members to war. It never occurred to us that we could be victims of foreign animosity. That our land could be invaded, infiltrated. We were safe here. All that changed eight years ago today.

I was laying in bed, just about to shut my eyes and try to get some more rest. Next to me, a three and a half month old boy was sleeping. The morning sunlight streaming in through a gap in the curtains, the cats curled up at my feet. Pretty close to perfect. The phone rang and the baby stirred a little. I reached around him to grab it before it could ring again, and it was my husband. No hello. No how is the baby. All he asked was if I had turned on the tv yet. No, why?

I fumbled for the remote and turned it on. And just then, the second tower fell. Oh my God. At that point, no one really knew what was happening. The only information available was that planes had hit the buildings, and they collapsed. The Pentagon. A plane down in Pennsylvania. Chaos. Terror. Who? Why?

I begged him to come home. At the time, we were living in San Diego and he worked in the tallest building in the flight path to the airport. The FAA was in the process of grounding all planes, but they weren't all down yet. And, really, no one knew if this was part of a larger attack. Was there anything else planned? Where else would be hit? He said he'd be home when he could get out.

In the course of that phone conversation, in the mere minutes it took for me to absorb what was going on, everything changed. I looked over at my son, my baby boy, and suddenly I was afraid. I was afraid for him. For us. For all of us. I was afraid for the world that he would grow up in. For the dangers out there, the known and the unknown.

A knock at the door. My neighbor. He husband was in the Navy, and had been called in to defend the Port. No one knew what was going on, but they had to protect the base. Her son was a few months older than Aidan. And we sat on the floor for hours. Practically silent with our babies, we sat and we cried.

In one day, our generation learned what fear was. We felt vulnerable. We watched the sky with apprehension when the planes started flying again. We were hesitant to walk back into stadiums and amusement parks.

It has been long enough now that people have started to forget. Just going through the motions of a regular life, there will be people who don't remember today. My kids are old enough now to ask me why the flag is at half mast. They live in the post 9/11 world, the one where we are not always safe here at home. The one where buildings can come crashing down. The one where danger lurks, hiding among us. Waiting.

Never forget what happened eight years ago. And never again think that it can't happen here. We must do what we can to prevent it without sacrificing our freedoms in the process. We can't live in fear, even if we are afraid. For if we do, we have already lost.

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