As our Western society collectively remembers and pays tribute to the horrific events that occurred in the United States 10 years ago today, I have seen many stories wondering, “where were you?”
I vividly remember my September 11th, 2001. In part because it was so unusual compared to everyone I’ve talked to.
Ten years ago today it was my first day of classes of my final semester in my 5th year at the University of Victoria. That year I had finally moved off-campus into a rental house with some friends and acquaintances. My first experience living as a renter, responsible for my own property.
September 11th, 2001 was like any other day for me. And that’s what was weird. I slept in as late as I more or less could, before running out the door to make a bus and get to class. I got up at about 9 or 10am, had a quick breakfast with my new roommates (Mike Kosiba for one, was couch-surfing at the time in my living room) and headed off to school. It was the first day of classes – an introductory day that often felt like a waste of time. The professors would tell us their names, hand out class curriculum outlines, required texts, give us assignment schedules and their list of expectations, and that was about it.
My first class that day was some sort of Geography class. An elective. I’d finished all my requisite courses for my political science degree in year 4, so this final semester was really about credit and courses I thought I might be interested in and really nothing more. One of my other classes was in Sociology – the “Sociology of Leisure” to be exact. Enough said.
Anyhow, my first class was like any other. The auditorium filled with students. I peered around heads and backpacks for anyone I knew who I could sit beside. I didn’t see anyone I recognized. I recall the professor making some comment about what kind of day it was, and that we’d be watching a movie as an introduction to the course material. So we did.
It ended like any other.
Perhaps oddly, but I didn’t think of it at the time, I never walked past any televisions that morning – my schedule simply didn’t have me tracking near any campus watering holes or gathering places.
Two or three more classes came and went rather unremarkably. Just before 2pm that day I finally did walk past the campus pub, Felicita’s. There was quite a crowd outside the entrance, all watching CNN on the tele. I took note, and saw smoke billowing from a large building, with firetrucks pouring massive streams of water on it. CNN reported on the ticker that it was the Pentagon, and that it had been bombed. “Whoa” pretty much summed up my thoughts. The Pentagon? Unreal.
But I had precious little time to make it to my last class of the day – this time on international relations (it would turn out to be the hardest class of my semester, but also one of my most interesting – though I never liked the professor and I don’t think she liked me either).
As I loitered around the hallway with my fellow peers, waiting to enter the classroom, I finally found a friend who I shared the class with. I can’t remember his name now (Jeff or Shaun I think). I exclaimed, “man, did you see the news? The Pentagon got hit with a bomb or something!” He replied, “dude, the World Trade Center buildings are gone.” I literally laughed him off. I remember it clear as day. I said, “no seriously, the Pentagon is on fire.” And he struck back, “I’m not kidding. the World Trade Center is like totally gone. Demolished. The buildings are gone.”
I was entirely and completely puzzled. Shocked. How could it be that I would have 3 classes already that day and not have heard a peep. None of my professors said a word, I didn’t overhear anything, and nothing seemed out of the sort. I didn’t believe it.
A few minutes later our classroom opened, we all took our seats, and the professor made a few remarks.
“I completely understand if, based on what’s happened today, you don’t feel like being here.” She said. “If you need to be at home, or call a loved one, or be with friends, that’s fine. Today we’re going to talk about what’s happened, discuss why, and just ease into the course material.”
My last class of the day and someone finally decides to talk about this. Over the next hour I would learn about what happened – entirely anecdotally and without evidence. Everyone had seen or heard about it all day long and were beyond that it happened; now they were discussing the reasons why it happened, while I sat there completely bewildered.
I wrote on page one in my class book: “September 11, 2001. The world will never be the same.”
It’s as though the world completely skipped past me. Those who know me are aware that I am keenly interested in the world around me – a current events geek, so this took me by great surprise.
To think about how an event like this might be reported if it were to happen today, with all of our technology, gadgets and communication devices, I’d barely be in the dark for a few minutes, let alone 8 hours.
As an enthusiast of architecture, of travel, of politics and current events, beyond the emotions and tragedy, September 11, 2001 was a fascinating day that compelled me nearly continuously from that point forward. In great ways, and in horrible ways, to watch how the world responded, how the United States responded, was remarkable in every and any way. I will never forget that day. The world did indeed change forever.