There are moments in history that capture the psyche of a generation. The Terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 has done that for mine. Sixteen years later, in 2017, I find myself needing to write about my personal account. I was deeply affected by these events; as was everyone else to a relative extent. Everyone that bore witness to that day has a story. I’m writing my story to find some semblance of healing for wounds that have been slow to heal.
The strongest memory I have is the smell in the air that night. I was still in a daze over the day’s events and was walking down 14th street in Union Square NYC. 2 miles away from the World Trade Center, the smell of the burning buildings was strong and distinct. It was an acrid odor, of burning cement and metal. I’ve never smelled anything like it. When I think of that day, that smell is the first thing that comes to mind.
On September 11th, 2001 I was at Union Square, in my dorm room, as a NYU student. I was a Senior in the Stern School of Business. I remember feeling horribly depressed that day, as I didn’t have much hope for a career in business by the end of my bachelor’s degree. I didn’t enjoy NYC or the Business School, but somehow I was getting through the program. I wanted to take the road less traveled and followed my passion for politics. I wound up in the Stern School of Business out of this love for politics. I knew that I could only understand the political economy of the world by understanding the economics of business. I was a co-major in International Business & Finance. I was also working towards a minor in Politics. NYU Undergraduate in Finance was #2 in the US at the time for Finance. I was learning a lot about the world, but I felt my career prospects were low as I had no true love for Finance. Grades were on a steep “Stern Curve” of 20% A’s, 40% B’s, & 40% C’s. In Finance Major it was 15%/45%/40%. I couldn’t hang with the children of the wealth-elite that were groomed for Investment Banking on Wall Street. I had also recently finished a summer internship at Enron Headquarters. I didn’t get a job as hoped and the company had completely fallen apart in scandal. On that day I had little hope for my future; though I always believed in myself. This left me feeling sad and lonely at NYU. As such, I was sleeping in and skipping class.
I woke up in Manhattan that day to hear my Indian roommates murmuring in the common area. For some reason I had the sense that something was not right. I finally got out of bed and went to the common area. My roommates Jay & Anshul then told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. They were watching CNN live, as was much of the World. I started to tell them that this “accident” was like the B-25 that hit the Empire State Building in WWII. Around that time we saw the 2nd plane hit the World Trade Center on TV. That was when the shock began.
Soon after in the morning, we recognized the abnormal commotion outside. We left our dorm room to see NYPD on every corner. Sirens were going off everywhere. People were moving around erratically and businesses were closing their doors. We went down a few blocks and then witnessed the smoke billowing in the distance. It was two miles away but the devastation was apparent.
Later that day, the NYPD quarantined everything south of 14th Street. We were right at that border and had to show our ID to get anywhere around our dorm. I had a strange sick feeling about what this all meant. I had a strange guilt about the excitement I felt about the day’s events. I also felt anger at the loss the Twin Towers that my family held dear as a sign of New York City. These range of emotions are normal in times of distress. We were holed up in our dorms for a few days until things cleared up.
Everyone and their brothers were trying to use the phone that day. Phone lines and Cell Towers were completely clogged. I remembered the history of the Internet, as a DARPA project to allow communications to withstand nuclear war. I then had the inspiration to get on my computer and make an IP phone call to Ohio where my parents lived. I told them I was ok and that I couldn’t talk to them for a while. Thank god I got through to alleviate a parents’ worry for their children.
That day I heard reports of the Pentagon being hit. I didn’t know how sustained these attacks were going to be. I also heard reports that Anthrax was being discovered in locations near me. All this left my head spinning.
Islamist Militants of Al-Qaida were being linked to the Terrorist assault on 9/11. I had previously took a course on Islamic Societies. As a Business/Politics student, I was starting to connect the dots of what this all meant. I knew that this was the Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century for the United States. I knew that the trajectory our nation was going to take was now on a different tangent. My passion and hurt had me following the drumbeats of war. I was not alone. Our citizenry was soon to follow President Bush into an expedition into Afghanistan against the Taliban. This also led our country to invade Iraq and install a new government. I completely & arrogantly subscribed to a Neo-Conservative agenda at the time. I was indoctrinated as a US House Republican Page and followed that through my University studies. I saw President Bush as doing the right thing in regime changes and also was adamant about him winning the second election.
So much on 9/11 has left me feeling ashamed above all else. Sixteen years later, I do not subscribe to Neo-Conservative political generalizations. I’m ashamed to understand the human cost of such ideals. I’m ashamed that I felt like a helpless Civilian at the time. I could do very little to help. I knew that I had to stay out of the way of the professional responders but I didn’t enjoy knowing this was all out of my control. It’s taken me a long time to process these events. I’ve suppressed much of my negative emotions about this history until very recently. This had left me unable to heal about all I went through in 2001. Time has a way of healing. By attempting to recollect and record my memories, I now have a better sense of renewal. Emotions will bring people to express themselves in many different ways. As for me, I find that blogging is definitely a healing salve for my soul. Post after Post, I hope to create a montage of thought. Out of that feeling of helplessness I grasp at trying to share my mind on my website and social media. I hope that somehow, I can make people and institutions better through my insights.