Monday, September 19, 2011
I still remember exactly where I was the moment I found out the world changed.
Driving to school in the second week of my senior year of high school, I turned the radio on to the same channel my brother and I listened to every morning.
On this day instead of alternative rock, the airwaves had a morning DJ trying to make sense of the terror unfolding in New York and Washington.
We got to school and went in to class.
My first period was marching band.
We heard that a plane had gone down in the Pittsburgh suburbs with massive loss of life on the ground and that the state department had been bombed. On a day filled with unimaginable tragedy already thankfully neither of those two stories turned out to be true. Instead of sitting around watching the TV, we went outside and practiced our routine for the next 50 minutes.
Then we came back inside and went to our next classes, where we did sit around and did nothing but watch the television as the World Trade Center towers came down.
In the following days, life became surreal.
Every professional sporting event across the country was canceled.
The marching band had been preparing to join other marching bands from around the state at Husky Stadium in Seattle for a high school band day, where we would perform classic rock songs like "Smoke on the Water" at halftime.
Those songs were scrapped in favor of a patriotic medley featuring "Proud to be an American" and "God Bless the USA."
After graduation many of my friends entered the military. Unlike just a year prior when entering the military was a good way to get some life skills and get money for college and prepare for wars you hoped never came, this time they were entering knowing that in all likelihood they were heading into harm's way.
That winter I went out and visited colleges (my first experience with post-9/11 airport security), and still remember sitting in a host's living room in Steubenville, Ohio, as U2 played inarguably the most mesmerizing Super Bowl halftime show ever, as the names of those lost on Sept. 11 scrolled in two columns above the stage to the refrain of "Beautiful Day."
Instead of being loaded up with the jingoism typical of the NFL, the performance was an invitation to heal, and we all needed it.
A few months before, just days after the attacks when airplanes were still grounded, my marching band was again out on the high school football field.
We sat under the main flight path in and out of SeaTac airport, so the sound of planes flying over was routine. But on that evening there were none. The silence in the skies was unnerving. There was terror in the silence. My ears strained for the sound of a plane, hoping for some normalcy.
It's not a feeling I ever want to have again.