On Sept. 11, 2001, countless Americans, including 19-year-old me, watched in horror as a second plane crashed into the World Trade Center’s south tower. Many citizens were already glued to the television amid reports of a plane crash at the World Trade Center’s north tower.
I sat with my grandpa that morning, transfixed on the broadcast of the attacks unfolding live. I was at home waiting until I had class at 10 a.m. I was a sophomore in college, and this event was one of the defining moments of that time.
Up until that point, for us college students, the world was our oyster. Ours for the taking. That feeling disintegrated when the towers fell.
I went to class only an hour after the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Our professor sent us home, saying we all needed to ensure our families and loved ones were safe.
That day, nearly 3,000 people perished as a result of the terrorist attacks. But for all of us who survived, life would never be the same.
The young people in our country that were filled with optimism had no real sense of what terrorists were capable of and how it could affect our everyday lives. Fear permeated American culture, and a distinct awareness of our vulnerability moved to the front of our collective consciousness.
Planes all over the nation were immediately grounded that day. Sept. 11, 2001, was the last day that anyone could enter an airport in the U.S. with their loved one, go through a mild security screening and escort them to their departing gate without a ticket. No one took off their shoes at security. There were no limits on the volume of your liquid toiletries. The Transportation Safety Administration didn’t even exist.
On Sept. 12, 2001, I went into work, a clerical position where we regularly communicated with cities like New York City and Washington D.C. But cell phones, landlines and faxes were dead, silenced by a lack of communication caused by the chaos of the terrorist attacks.
And while we all struggled with how to proceed in the days following those tragic events, a palpable sense of patriotism, solidarity and resolve to heal gripped the nation for a moment in time. United in our struggle against the deadly terrorism our nation faced, many Americans set aside political differences, coming together to be stronger.
For those individuals who witnessed these events and lived some of their lives before Sept. 11, the stark difference between life before and after will always stay with you. The sheer terror of that day cannot be forgotten. As the memory of a time before Sept. 11 fades, we can reflect on the impact of these events as a moment in time which instantly changed how we view terrorism, safety, unity and freedom in the U.S.