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9/11: Voting and the Desert of the Real

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On September 11, 2001, I was two days away from starting my first job in speech-language pathology after having graduated with my Master’s degree a month before. I was taking advantage of two more mornings of sleeping in before entering the real world. Instead my introduction came a bit early, just before nine in the morning when my mother called to tell me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

At first, we thought there had just been some kind of terrible navigation error. I stumbled out of bed and threw on some sweats before lugging myself downstairs to the television. Before I had the chance to pick up the remote, my mother was crying and screaming that there was another plane heading toward the building. I couldn’t quite understand what she was saying and I was asking her to repeat herself more slowly as I fumbled with the controller’s buttons. I just missed witnessing the second impact. All hope of a simple navigational error was erased as I gaped at the black smoke billowing out of the Twin Towers. In the words of Morpheus in The Matrix, “Welcome to the desert of the real.”

I spent the next six hours glued to the television. As I learned about the additional planes that had been hijacked, watched the destruction at the Pentagon and the heroic crash of flight 93 in Pennsylvania, I began to feel like I’d just been unplugged and awakened in the Nebuchadnezzar with Squiddies chasing me and no hope of reaching Zion.Photo by Sister72 on Flickr

As events unfolded, there was a point at which I started to believe the attacks would never end. At mid-afternoon, despite having seen the same updates several times through, I couldn’t bring myself to walk away from the television lest I miss the next critical event. I felt the need to do something, but what?

I walked to the front steps for a break, looked up at the sky, and marveled at the irony of the cloudless skies in Boston, the comfortable temperature, the calm, the quiet; more quite than usual. It seemed I was not the only one stuck inside soaking up the screen rays instead of the sun rays that day. Still, I was restless. Back inside, I saw I hadn’t missed a thing. I began to believe it was over, but the hollow feeling remained. That’s when I remembered it was election day.

Among the many things I am (admittedly and unadmittedly), is I am a voter. If there is an election on, I’m there. September 11 was the day of the 9th Congressional District special election primary in Massachusetts, a relatively nondescript election, if ever there was one. Nonetheless, I felt a powerful need to vote; this simple act is so central to our way of life. In the United States, we enjoy the freedom to determine our own future in a way that people in few other countries can. Even then, our representatives disagree, deadlock or deceive us, but we can always start again.

So I finally ditched the sweats, dressed up and walked to the poll.

Photo by Sister72 on Flickr

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