12 years ago, I was a freshman in high school, sitting in Mr.Lonsbury's Biology class, in the furthest back row with my friend Kristen Markley- halfheartedly trying to hide the fact that we were playing go fish rather than taking dreadfully boring notes on photosynthesis. For whatever reason that escapes me now, the classroom television had been turned on and rather than displaying the usual school announcements that had been typed with Comic Sans font in an odd combo of neon and pastel colors, we were staring at a plane plunging into the World Trade Center. We didn't understand. Was this some sick movie? And then Peter Jenning's voice... I remember looking over to Mr. Lonsbury and suddenly, my stomach was down with my feet, my heart was in my throat... That was real. No one moved. No one even breathed, it was like we were all collectively holding our breath, hoping, willing someone to reassure us. But nothing came. Principal Sieb's was heard bouncing off the lockers and down the empty hallways from the intercom system. And then the bell rang. No one moved. We suddenly needed permission to go to our next class.
A lot of people ask me, when finding out about my brief military experience, if 9/11 was the catalyst for why I signed my name on that dotted line. Truth is, my usual normal day to day life in Overland Park, Kansas was barely affected by the events that happened that awful day 12 years ago. 9/11 was not a reason ringing in my ears and beating as a reason through my veins, a "call to duty" if you will. I don't have a good concrete answer for making the choice I did of becoming a United States Marine. But I can tell you that upon graduation of boot camp on July 14th, 2006, 9/11 was not just ringing in my ears...it was holding me at my core. And I knew it was my job to do something and serve this country that I, like many others, had taken for granted.
In the immediate aftermath and chaos that followed September 11th, 2001, I noticed a slight change in the actions of total strangers to one another. Although my family and I always went to church on Sundays, more people seemed to go in the weeks that followed. There was a collective need to pull together, to become one cohesive unit that is Team America. We were told by our President that the terrorists were after us. We had to fight back. And although there was a sense of us taking each other by the hand and standing tall, there was also an almost immediate distrust of anyone who looked like those pictures flashing on the TV of Osama Bin Laden and the men who took down Flight 93. Looking back on it, I can say that at least we were consistent; we had held the same regard for the Japanese Americans during WWII, although their plight and suffering was far worse.
In the years that followed, the war on terror began to take its toll on the American people, both military and civilian. Conspiracies began circulating, claims that the United States government had actually been behind the atrocities of the 9/11 attacks that cost thousands of people their lives. Why would two huge independent structures crumble on top of itself like that by only a plane flying into it? And what about the plane that flew into the Pentagon? And where was the tangible proof of Flight 93? So many questions. So many people outraged by the lack of answers, and not so many believing the "official" answers given by the White House's Commission Report. Documentaries such as Loose Change 9/11 were getting millions of views on YouTube. Suddenly we were no longer working together. It felt as though we had become divided, the people vs. their government.
Truth is, we, the general public, will never know the full story. And despite whose authority you personally believe it was by, September 11th 2001 is a day that can never be forgotten. To those who gave their lives, we honor you today. To those that fought back, we say thank you. This day 12 years ago reshaped our lives, some minutely, and others massively. Take my hand and stand with me. Let's face this world together.