They responded callously. “Well, okay, you can go...if you want to,” one of them said. My girlfriend's boss, the editor of the journal, told her that she was letting the terrorists win by leaving. “Business as usual,” it seemed, came about immediately for some people.
The subway in Boston never shut down, and I was back at work and school the next day. I had a graduate seminar on Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica that evening. Our professor said, “I don't think we need to talk about yesterday, do we?” in a way that felt more appropriate than making a 22-year-old young man feel badly for wanting to make sure his partner and family were okay while the news was still very fresh, as my bosses had the day before. He meant that we had to make the move to get past what had happened, and we had to start walking beyond it immediately. At least, that is what I like to think he meant.
At the time, one of my colleagues was a middle-aged Russian named Alex who served his own country in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He excitedly greeted me later that week and told me that Russian bombers were fueled and ready to go and “bomb the bastards” who did it. I never learned if this was true. But I admit to being satisfied that someone was going to feel the fire after the attacks on our country. And so much the better if the guilt would be in the hands of another nation.
By Friday of that week in September 2001, I was just sad. Everyone I knew was okay. Several Boston College alums were killed, and one of their names came up first in a database I had to access daily. He was only four years older than I was, and his parents wanted to set up a scholarship in his name and in his honor. Friday night after 9/11/2001, a concert came on television that, I am convinced, was aired entirely to keep us all sane. A nation as large as ours, going through that kind of shock, was a dangerous thing. And, as the last decade shows us now, it led to some heinous actions undertaken in the name of revenge, prevention, safety, security and—eventually—n the name of freedom.