I was doing observation in the fall in preparation for student teaching in the spring, at Cahokia High School, just on the Illinois side of St. Louis, Mo. The principal came over the intercom and told the teachers to turn on the TVs, but all he said descriptively was something like “a tragedy is developing this morning in America.” We turned on the TV just in time to see the replay just after the second plane hit.
Kids were scared. I was scared. The station we were watching, later on, said “just outside Pittsburgh” for Flight 93, which was totally wrong, but it made me think, Generation Y-like, of the movie Independence Day, where the big, command and control cities were hit first and then they moved on to the smaller ones. I wondered what was next.
Then I saw the Pentagon hit, and as much as I figured as many as 20,000 people would die in New York, that one hit me more. I’ve never been to New York, but I’ve been to DC six times and just love it there. On the radio driving back up to my college campus in Edwardsville, a news guy reporting from there said, “I never thought I’d say this, but they’re flying air cover over Washington.” The whole drive (25 miles) I kept looking over my shoulder to see if the Arch was still there.
Cahokia had Channel One News piped in every day, and when I started to hear “Taliban” bandied about, I remembered seeing the stuff on them blowing up the giant Buddha, and the hostage/missionaries, and all. But as I sat down and watched news for about fifteen hours straight, I thought, selfishly, can I afford gas to get to Cahokia (idiots in Edwardsville, later punished, pushed their prices up near $6 per gallon by about 2 that afternoon). I thought, of course, that given the scope of the attacks, they couldn’t be over. But the one thing that really scared me the most was the reactions people would have, and by people, I mean white people. There were a ton of Indian and Pakistani students living in my apartment complex, and I’ll tell you, that was what I was most scared of, some crank taking a shot at them and hitting them, or hitting me instead.
I bought a flag (after about a three week search because I was broke at that exact time), I sang the songs, I prayed and maybe got a little jingoistic. But the “because of our freedoms” thing, that wasn’t cutting it with me. And if it did, it was only because I was fraught with emotion. It wasn’t hard to get a lump in my throat for a long time here. And five years later, all that we said about how everything would change and we would have to make sacrifices and all that? That’s the most disappointing thing to me. That, and that we decided somebody who didn’t but could might maybe do something to us was more important to get than somebody who actually did, and still wants to.