The Real 9/11 Story Started on 9/12

On 9/12, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This is not to say that I don’t have an incredible amount of respect for the people who died on 9/11, especially the emergency responders who sacrificed their lives rushing into the World Trade Center. They were, they are, our heroes. But in the days after 9/11, I walked around my Virginia home wondering not if but when another tragedy would come about. This is an American story.


I did not want people to die.

Instead I feared it was the inevitable.

I remember sitting in the newspaper office where I worked at the time, huddled in a corner, trying to call my parents in upstate New York. They were fine. My family was fine. My anxiety was nothing in comparison to those of the true victims.

But I couldn’t get through. I didn’t know. I was fueled only by the rumors. A chemical bomb had gone off. A nuclear bomb. The devastation had spread far beyond New York City. It had reached my little corner of the globe, my hometown, my childhood.

Let me make this clear. As much as 9/11 changed my life — and it did in so many ways — it did not hurt me physically. I say this again and again because I do not want to steal the spotlight from those who suffered, from the survivors. It was a hard decision to even write this because I am not a victim, at least not in the measurable way that nearly 3,000 families can describe today. But I do want to share the anxiety of average Americans, the people who were left wondering, is this it? This is our story.

In the days after 9/11, we found a new America, a place where people were united — at least for awhile — in grief, in sympathy, in a renewed spirit. And yet, we were scared too.

We don’t talk about the fear as much now as we talk about our resolve, our desire to make sure the families of the victims had our support, our pride in country, our faith that we could stop this mad spinning of the world on its axis.

But I was scared.

Terrified.

Wondering when it would happen again.

What the terrorists did to the victims of 9/11 cannot be matched in terms of horror. This isn’t some “who suffered the most game.” But the affects of 9/11 on Americans differed based on your proximity to the tragedy.

The families felt physical pain as much as emotional. The rest of us felt fear.

Plain, simple fear.

That’s how they hit us. That’s what we lost. Our easy, go about our daily life sense that we were safe because we were us. Americans. Residents of the home of the free, the land of the brave.

And yet, today, 10 years on, thankful that the other shoe did not drop, I would say we are . . .  not better but stronger for that fear? For the ability to have faced a monster and know that we can come out on the other side. For the fact that we didn’t let the fear take over our lives.

On 9/11, we were attacked. On 9/12, we began to figure out how to pick up the pieces.

Do you remember where you were on 9/11?

Image via PeterJBellis/Flickr

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