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.
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