I've been on YouTube watching those planes hit the towers over and over again, from every available angle, some shot by individuals who happened to have a camera rolling at the moment, others by the networks. I watch, trying to conjure up the emotions I felt that day, but it's almost impossible. Our emotions regarding Sept. 11 are shaped by what we now know--the famous people who died, the hundreds of gallant firefighters and police who sacrificed their lives so that others might live, the two wars the attacks led to.
On the day itself, there was tension: what was going to be hit next? Where was President Bush? There was inaccuracy: At one point, somebody on TV said the State Department had been hit. Since I live in a D.C. suburb, my kids were sent home from school. I remember I watched a Jane Austen flick that evening--I can't remember which one. Some might call that an attempt to escape reality. But what is realistic about watching the same plane hit the same building a hundred times? In a sense, I was escaping a violent unreality.
I remember being angry a few days later, when I saw the covers of the news magazines featuring the most terrible images they could find of the jets' impact. It was as though they were screaming, "Look how badly you hurt us!" It seemed to me we were playing into the goals of our attackers--to hurt us so badly that we screamed. I didn't want them to know how badly they'd hurt us. All I wanted that week was quiet, swift justice for the perpetrators of this monstrosity. I wanted the networks to shut up about it and talk about other things--the weather, the economy--instead of obsessing about what had happened. Unrealistic? Of course.
I love the good ways 9/11 changed us. Especially I love the fact that, everytime a suspected terrorist tries something on a plane--the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber--the other passengers practically kill him. We almost don't need federal marshals on our planes. "Thanks, but we'll take care of this ourselves," Americans seem to be saying. Our inner John Wayne coming to the surface, rising to the occasion.