Kirsten's Fan Club
September 11, 2001. It was a day none of us will soon forget
-- the day that everyone said would change the world. For a
while, there was talk of Armageddon and the Beginning of the
End. On that fateful day one year ago, we seemed to have lost
more than the buildings, the planes and the people. For a
moment, we wondered if we had lost our future.
As our nation prepared for war against an unseen enemy, plans
were changed and some dreams were abandoned. Sure, everyone said
that to give up on the small things – an adventure in New
York, an internship at the Capitol, an airplane trip to Grandma’s
house – was "letting the terrorists win." But when
it came time to make real decisions, practicality often won over
symbolism. People took the train, and when the trains started
crashing, they drove. They sent e-mails and signed up for online
bill pay services just to avoid their mailboxes. Kids attended
good ol’ State U. and lived close to Mom and Dad.
I remember well sitting up late at night with my boyfriend
just after the attacks, rethinking aloud the very concept of
marriage and whether or not it was fair to bring children into a
world so full of chaos. From our vantage point in Arlington –
with the smoldering Pentagon in plain sight – the world seemed
too dangerous a place for us, let alone any unborn
A friend who was then a brand-new teacher for Fairfax County
told us of her plans to move home to Pennsylvania at the school
year’s end. "Depending on what’s going on with the
war," she said, "I might not want to be here in a
year." Her words sobered us as we realized that the war on
terror would be fought on our soil, and that we as
Washingtonians were prime targets for the other side.
Nearly everyone at least discussed moving. Many
followed through. Mostly they left New York, though a few left
Washington. (Then again, almost everyone leaves Washington
eventually -- even Strom Thurmond.)
But most New Yorkers did stay, and America loved them for it.
We called them heroes as they took ferries to the same old jobs
. . . in New Jersey. We imagined their thoughts and feelings as
they crossed the river each day and looked back at the gaping
hole in their beloved skyline. We cried for them, and we cried
for their fallen colleagues and friends who were carried across
that same river, by a different ferry, to their final
Slowly, things returned to normal – but a new kind of
normal. A kind of weird, parallel-universe normal where CNN
displays a terror alert status monitor on the TV screen right
next to the weather forecasts. Chance of precipitation: 30%.
Chance of death and devastation: 97.7%.
Airlines cut their rates and people started to fly again. The
government took an already bad situation and made it worse by
trying to make it better. Air security was federalized and
became a national (unfunny) joke. One major airline filed for
bankruptcy, and more are expected to do so in the near future.
Ground Zero is cleaned up now, leaving a sixteen-acre slab of
nothing where people and commerce used to be. No one knows what
will be done with the site. It’s too big to just build a
memorial, but to build anything else seems almost a sacrilege.
The Pentagon looks wonderful—like nothing ever happened. A
local paper printed a photo of a portion of the newly-refinished
exterior. One blackened stone stands out among the pristine
white—it was there that day, and survived not only the
inferno, but the renovation.
No one seems to fear the mail anymore – at least not in the
places with reason to worry. Every six weeks or so, you still
hear of some secretary at an office supply warehouse in Tulsa,
or somebody like that, who spilled Sweet N Low next to an
envelope and was taken to the hospital with all the symptoms of
hysteria. But the people who should be scared, aren’t. It’s
hard to be scared when you’re filled with righteous anger.
I guess at this point, we define normal as being angry
instead of scared. As long as we can sing along with Toby Keith
when he shouts, "We’ll put a boot up your ass, it’s the
American way!" and really mean it, we figure we’re going
to be okay. And I think that’s all right. It’s better, at
least, than acquiescing to the silent demands of an invisible
army with no discernible goal beyond our physical, spiritual and
As for our hope for the future?
Well, I can only speak for those people who are close to me,
but everywhere I look, I see hope and confidence about the
future. My teacher friend from Pennsylvania is now in her second
year of teaching in the Fairfax County schools. She says she
plans to teach here in the Washington area until she retires.
The boyfriend with whom I discussed the merit vs. folly of
marriage and children in a world as scary as ours? He’s now my
fiancé. We’ll be married next October, just a little over two
years after our panicked late-night dialogue. And we definitely
plan to have kids. However frightening the world may seem today,
or how frightening it truly was one year ago today, it could
never compete with the despair of a world without families, love
If you don’t believe me, just ask those people on the
Kirsten's Fan Club
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