On a fall morning in Florida during my junior year of high school, around my third period American History class with Mr. Ratner, something happened. Something newsworthy. Something world-altering. On a positive side, we got to ditch school early. That might be the only positive side.
The morning was September 11th, 2001. Being in Miami, I was pretty safe. But we had no idea what was going on except for the pieces of the puzzle crashing into our eyes and ears through the TV and the radio. They actually rolled out one of those big old televisions that schools have used since the ‘80s so substitute teachers could play a science documentary or something. Except, this time, we were watching grainy footage of planes crashing into the World Trade towers in New York City.
By the time my mom picked me up from school and quarantined me in the living room, I felt a strange numbness to it all. It was exciting. But people were dying. It was unusual. It was horrible. None of it made sense. I just remember thinking, “I hope this doesn’t mean I have to go to war.”
As I scrolled through the TV channels, it was all so surreal. Every channel except for the ones playing infomercials and kids’ programming were covering the tragedy. I knew how to record television using our VHS player, so that’s exactly what I did. I left it on CNN until the tape ran out. Two hours of a strange movie playing out in real time.
The story started to form: a terrible thing happened. It was intentional. It was national. It was coordinated. It was terrorists. Foreign terrorists. Islamic terrorists. So it was international. We are not safe. We’ve got to do something. We will do anything. We will even give up our rights!
I think you see where this story is going because you probably also lived through it. You probably have your own vivid story to tell. Because how could you forget?
We did go to war. Thankfully, there was no draft forcing me to join. But I feel for those who did serve and for all the lives lost because of that terrible day.
Years later I would see a viral conspiracy video about September 11th. It blew my mind and made me look at the world differently. I would eventually befriend the filmmakers and collaborate with them on several projects. Just one of those weird things, I guess.
Now that we are approaching the 20th anniversary of 9/11 while living through an entirely different sort of collective trauma, each person reading this will have their own ideas about what the heck is actually going on, just as you have your own ideas about what happened twenty years ago.
I will simply leave you with this: as hindsight shaped your view of what happened twenty years ago, how do you think hindsight will shape your view of what’s happening today? Only time will tell, I suppose.
I found that VHS tape. It’s probably a good time to share it with you, so we can learn a thing or two from history.
God bless 🇺🇸
Here’s a playlist with the trailer followed by the two-hour tape: