It’s been 12 years now, yet anybody over the age of 20 or so remembers where they were when the first planes hit the World Trade Center.
I was living in Arizona then, on my way to work, listening to sports talk radio. I don’t recall the topic they were discussing, of course, but do remember one of the radio hosts commenting on something he had just noticed on the TV. “Wow. What is that?” he said. “It looks like a plane flew into a building somewhere.”
Then it was back to the sports topic, but only briefly. For the radio hosts, like most everyone else, it took some time to absorb the gravity of what was happening.
It would take much longer to figure out what it meant. In fact, all these years later, we’re still trying to figure out what it meant.
So, yes, we all remember 9-11
But more and more it’s beginning harder to remember 9-10.
On that Monday, I don’t believe I have ever heard of Osama bin Laden, let alone al Qaeda. I had not heard the phrase “weapons of mass destruction.” I didn’t know what an IED was. I had never heard of sleeper cells or Ground Zero or waterboarding.
On that Monday, it would never have occurred to me that I would have to take my shoes off and go through metal detectors to get on an airplane. I had never heard of something called the TSA or the Department of Homeland Security or The Patriot Act and the implications that it would continue to have on our basic right to privacy.
On that Monday, I had never heard the word “Jihad.” I never heard much anything about how American Muslims were any more menacing than Sikhs or Hindus.
Back then, wars began and ended on calendar dates with signatures on treaties.
As a young student, I remember being amazed that England and France could be engaged in the Hundreds’ Year War and on that Monday, I still could not imagine living in a nation that has been in a perpetual state of war for a dozen years now.
Growing up in the 1970s, I saw lots of planes being hijacked on the nightly news and I was familiar with the Japan’s use of kamikazes near the end of World War II. But on that Monday, it never occurred to me that the two tactics could be combined to slaughter almost 3,000 innocents.
On that Monday, I was disgusted with the extreme political polarization that held our government hostage, never imagining that a single event could unite Americans, even for a short while. American flags flying from every window, flag decals adorning every car bumper, people gathering at churches during the middle of a work day, empty skies above airports — I could not have imagined any of that on that Monday.
On that Monday, I was a newspaper sports editor. I would never have imagined that I would be sitting in the executive editor’s office the next day explaining my argument for not producing a sports section for the Sept. 12 edition under the theory that exploring how the sports world would be affected by 9/11 was an insult to decency.
On that Monday, I just assumed there would always be an ocean between us and a terrorist attack.
On that Monday, I had already competed the application process for credentials for the 2012 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. I would have laughed if I had been told that the United States Olympic Committee would now require me to have a passport to travel from Arizona to Utah.
On that Monday, I would have found it incredible that anything could happen that could ultimately make us both less free and less safe.
So, here it is, 12 years after 9/11, and we are still waiting for the happy ending to the tragic story.
I would like to believe that all that was lost on that September Tuesday 12 years ago has been restored or will be restored.
But I find no evidence of it.
So we move on, as best we can.
We can and will remember 9/11, but I wonder if we will ever really know what it means.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.