Monday, September 10, 2012

The Day the World Changed



The day began as did most of my days with sound of the alarm clock at 4:45.  Forty minutes later, showered, shaved, and with coffee in hand, I was out the door and on my way to the park and ride.

It was a beautiful morning. I took the 6:10 bus to my cubical in a windowless office on the ground floor of the Pentagon and began my day shortly after seven.

At eight o'clock, we assembled in the Colonel's office for staff call. Half-way through the status reports the building was jolted as if by an explosion.  We didn't realize it at the time, but our world had been suddenly and irrevocably changed.

There was conversation.  

"What was that?" 
"It felt like blast over pressure."
"It did. I haven't felt anything like that since the night they blew up the Pleiku ammo dump."
"I heard that someone ran an airplane into the World Trade Center."
"It was two planes. The second one hit right before we came in."
"You don't suppose someone did something here?"
"Maybe we should see what happened."

I moved to my desk and began shutting down my computer.  Someone opened the door.  The hall was full of smoke. We realized "Yeah. Maybe we should be getting out of here." 

Remembering what countless elementary school teachers had said about fire drills -- don't stop; don't go back for anything -- I left the computer behind and walked out the door, away from the smoke and out of the building.

Only later did we learn that the Pentagon had been hit by an airplane. Only then did we recognize that the world had been changed.

When I went to work that day, my nation and the world were at peace. Before I got home we were at war.

I went to work believing in goodness. I returned having experienced evil.

I went to work not doubting I would return home when work was done. Nearly 4000 of my fellow citizens probably thought likewise, only to have their lives ended in an act of coldly premeditated malice.  

I went to work not considering the means by which one people can inflict terror on another. I returned outraged at the atrocity I had witnessed. And, since anger is the appropriate response to outrage, I returned from work angry and eager to see justice done..

Eleven years have passed since the day the world changed. Time has done little to assuage my outrage.  An atrocity, even after eleven years, remains an atrocity. Time has allowed me give up my expectation and hope of retribution and get on with life. In some quarters, that probably counts as forgiveness. 

How about you?

Where were you the day the world changed?

How has it affected you personally?