Exactly twenty years ago today I was in college at Appalachian State University, sitting in archeology class, learning all about ancient humans.
A modern human’s face appeared at the classroom door – it was another professor. He motioned for my professor to come into the hall. He did. The other students and I waited.
A few moments later our professor returned. He stated that a passenger plane had hit one of the twin towers in NYC. He said it was believed to be an accident and that rescue operations were underway. One of the students exclaimed – my mother works there!!! They jumped up and ran out of the room.
We went back to class. I worried for the student who just left to call their mother –
A few moments later the same professor who had come to the door earlier came back into the room and called our professor back outside.
The students and I were silent as we tried to listen to their words through the open door.
The professor returned. He stated that another plane had hit the second tower and that this could not be a coincidence – it must have been premeditated. The question was – how, why, and by whom?
The professor then said the remainder of classes for the day were canceled so people could deal with this tragedy in their own way. I and the other students sat in silence for a few moments before gathering our things and exiting the classroom.
I wandered around campus for a while wondering what was going on. I decided to go to the coffee shop to get a drink and think. As I made my way through the thousands of other students wandering about campus I noticed that it was eerily quiet. All the students seemed to be with their own thoughts. I was as well. I walked into the student union building and noticed that TV’s had been set up on carts in the hallways reporting from ground zero. I stopped to watch with hundreds of other students. As we watched the destruction unfold – yet another passenger plane crashed into the pentagon. A student screamed, others wept. Some cussed out loud. I was silent and just could not grasp what the hell was happening. I stood with several others and watched for several hours as the numbers of the dead were reported, as the brave fire, police, and first responders worked so hard to help those impacted by the attack.
At a point I just became numb.
I stayed at school for the rest of the day and into the night. Sitting alone. Chatting with friends.
In the early evening I was sitting alone in the coffee shop when a young band began setting up. They introduced themselves as the Steep Canyon Rangers. I had no idea who they were. At that moment I did not care. I had no more room for thoughts. I was still numb.
Then the band started playing – it was some of the most wonderful, high energy, positive bluegrass music I had ever heard. They were amazing and their music was just what I and all the others in that room needed on that terrible day.
For the next hour or so we all sat and listened to these wonderful young musicians crank out tune after tune and it was exactly what we needed to help us get through the terrible events of the day. The magic of their music and their positivity helped me recover myself that day and I am sure their music that helped them cope as well. I have followed the Steep Canyon Rangers over the last 20 years and still today they are one of my favorites.
While their wonderful music helped me cope on that terrible day – it did nothing for the thousands of innocent people who died at the hands of lunatic fringe dwelling religious/political fanatics on September 11, 2001.
We can pray to our gods, think deep thoughts, and never forget the events of that horrible day – but if we do not want things like this to happen again – we must act. We must must never again let religious and/or political fanatics harm the living.
While thoughts and prayers obviously do not much to help those in need – they may help ease some of the pain and strife for those of us who remain. So please take a moment of silence to remember, think about how lucky you are to be here, say a prayer if it somehow helps you – do whatever you need to do to remember and honor the fallen innocents, the brave firefighters, police officers, and first responders, the passengers and crew on the planes – all those who lost their lives and had their families forever torn apart by the cowardly terrorist acts perpetrated on that day.
Also please remember that just because a twisted group of terrorists who were Muslim were responsible for these horrid attacks – it does not mean that all Muslims are bad people. There are also bad, hateful, and twisted people/ groups in the Christian faith and all other religions/races/ethnicities. There are bad Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, atheists, agnostics, politicians, scientists, cops, doctors, lawyers, preachers, teachers – whatever. Just like eggs, any human being can go bad. It is up to all of us good eggs to smell the rottenness growing in our fellow humans and get them help – or, if need be, remove them before they spoil the whole bunch.
I was not an eyewitness to the events if that terrible day but one of my favorite science communicators was. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was an eyewitness to the attacks and outlines it vividly via this link: https://911blogger.com/news/2014-05-06/neil-degrasse-tyson-was-eye-witness-911-he-wrote-letter-describing-his-horrifying-experience