It has been said thousands of times over the past 10 years, and it is absolutely true: Everyone will always remember where they were when the news of the September 11, 2001 attacks broke. Like Pearl Harbor and the assassination of JFK, it is an event that is seared into the memory of all those able to see what happened; although in the case of 9/11 it was even more visceral, since images of the devastation were instantly broadcast around the world.
I was just 13 years old the day of the attacks. I remember coming in from gym class and hearing a fellow student saying, "The principal announced that the World Trade Center was bombed." I knew that the WTC complex consisted of two very tall towers, but that was about it. The school staff wheeled TVs, normally used to show educational videos in class, into the hallways and tuned in to CNN. Everyone sat in awed silence at the images of smoke pouring out of the fatally damaged buildings, but no one was sure of what was going on.
The school day continued on its regular schedule, but every class focused on the events of the day. My English teacher guessed that 30,000 people would be dead. My Civics teacher said we should invade Saudi Arabia. Other students hoped that we would bomb the Palestinians who were shown dancing in the streets of Gaza. At the end of the day, I went home and watched the news with my family for the rest of the night. The world, especially in the eyes of a boy, had changed.
Before 9/11, I had little interest in, and even less understanding of, global events. My generation had grown up in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity; too young to remember the end of the Cold War and the first war in Iraq. In our eyes, America was untouchable: incredibly wealthy, and beloved by all for its freedom and liberty.