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From 19 to 29, remembering the attack on America

September 11, 2011
By JOSHUA S. FLESHER - Tribune Chronicle ( , Tribune Chronicle |
It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the morning of September 11, 2001. (Preparing to write this column, I have been trying to think of all the ways that I could write this, finding poignancy and brilliance throughout, but I keep coming back to the same spot.) That morning — I was living with my brother at the time — I had gotten out of bed and shuffled down the hallway toward the kitchen, needing coffee before I got ready for my day of classes at Lorain County Community College. My sister-in-law, who was my brother’s girlfriend at the time, was sitting on the couch with the television on. At first glance, I saw the World Trade Center with smoke pouring from the side, and I asked her what was going on. She told me that a plane had hit the building, and I, thinking it was just an unfortunate accident, went back to my daily routine of getting ready for class. Within minutes, I was back in the living room, glued to the television as reports poured in of a similar plane crash at the Pentagon. The words that were spoken that day, I can’t recall, and the longer time goes by, the vivid memories that I once had are beginning to fade away, but the images of that second plane hitting the World Trade Center are as clear as if they happened yesterday. For the first time in my life, I was truly scared. I was 19 years old, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and I was sitting and watching the United States of America, a place that I felt was invincible, being attacked. I went to my first class, but all we did was sit and watch the news, talking quietly to one another about what we thought was happening. The rest of the day was canceled at LCCC, and I went home. I can remember how lifeless the world seemed that day. An almost numb sense of shock had gripped everyone. On the drive home I was amazed at the few cars I saw. I listened to Howard Stern most of that morning, as he had stayed on the air much longer than normal to talk about the scenes in New York City, and drove aimlessly for about an hour, not wanting to go home or anywhere else. For a 19-year-old college student, it was too real. There were thoughts of continued attacks across the country, the reaction of our government and military, and really not knowing what to expect anymore. I watched as the towers were hit and listened to classmates cry out helplessly as the towers fell. I saw the scenes of dust-covered men and women dressed in their work clothes, being helped away from the scene. And they were the lucky ones. I still get a pit in my stomach remembering watching what looked like debris falling from a window of the tower, only to realize that it was a person. The day wore on, and we learned of United Airlines Flight 93 crashing in rural Pennsylvania and the heroic people who lost their lives attempting to save many more. The days and weeks after the attack, we learned more about what had happened and who was to blame, and unity and pride began to well up inside the people of the United States. For those few weeks, there was more to our lives than the petty differences that we far too often allow to divide us. The party lines that are drawn so tightly now had begun to fade, because we were no longer Republicans and Democrats, we were Americans. It was a sense of when someone hurts your brother. You may fight with that brother about everything, physically or verbally, but if someone else tries to do the same, you are the first to back him up. The horrific moments of that day hurt us, but we were not going to be defeated. Looking back on these 10 years, I have a hard time believing that it was that long ago. The memories and the feelings remain, but then I realize that I’ve lived almost a lifetime since then. I was pushing 20 years old, uncertain of my life’s path and scared of what was in store for me and the country. Now, I’m pushing 30 and have become a different person. I’m still not really certain of my life’s path, but I have a better view of it. The events of 9/11 will stand out in the minds of those who witnessed it, whether on television or in person, forever. Much like the way that the attacks of Pearl Harbor, or the shootings at Kent State or the Vietnam War define a generation, the 9/11 attacks too will define this generation for the way we banded together, stood up and refused to be beaten. We can’t let time to allow us to forget about that day and the lessons we learned. The world is a much different place than it was 10 years ago, and we can’t forget it or those who were lost.


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