Recently, I saw United 93 for the first time. What a day that was… My memories of September 11th are much different than most Americans. I was overseas at the time, studying literature, writing, and philosophy in Copenhagen, Denmark. I heard from a Danish student in my kollegium that terrorists had attacked the U.S. Quickly, I went to the television and turned on my only available source of American news: CNN.
United 93 reminded me of some feelings I had since forgotten. For the past five years, it has been easy to look back at the seizure of four hijacked planes and criticize the government and military for ineffective response. It has been easy to criticize because the surprise of that day wore off all too quickly, and because we eventually returned to our hard-hearted belief that we wouldn’t be attacked again (at least for awhile). But United 93 reminded me of the experience of that day… of the shock and uncertainty involved. While it was still happening, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know if there were two hijacked planes or twenty. Seriously.
Every major U.S. city could have been targeted at the same time if the terrorists had so chosen. After several years, it is easier to look back at 9/11 and not feel as much. Four planes were hijacked, the passengers onboard were killed, and many people in the World Trade Center were killed. Still, it’s easy to look back and say to myself, “Okay, so a couple planes flew into a couple buildings…” Plane crashes don’t have the same sense of terror as massive bombs. I mean, how would we feel if 40,000 people died from a bomb at a football game? We’d probably destroy several small countries in pursuite of vengeance/justice. Please do not misinterpret. I support our government and I respect our leaders. I believe that hunting Bin Laden and the gang is important. I still don’t understand why we invaded Iraq. Should Hussein have been removed? Absolutely yes. He committed murder thousands of times. But why so soon after 9/11?
Why didn’t we spend those resources capturing Bin Laden and the terrorists responsible? Why did we invest so much in Iraq so shortly after a national crisis? This is not a political blog. United 93 was surprisingly faithful to the actual events of September 11th (as far as I know). It was difficult to watch with my wife because that day reminds us that we were apart – she here in Texas and I in Denmark. That day we could not comfort one another. Our experiences were very different. In that day of confusion, shock, and unbelief, I remember fearing attacks on Dallas/Fort Worth. I remember fearing that Heather and my friends were in danger. I remember not having a clue if anyone I loved was safe. I remember not being able to find comfort. It was a terrible day for many people, and for many reasons.
For some, it was the day their father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or sister died. For others, it was the day they lost their jobs. For some, it was the day they were so traumatized from the experience that they tremble with fear to this day. For others, it was the day they feared the worst was going to happen everywhere. I was a part of that last group. I did not lose any friends on that day, but I suffered from the fear of not knowing how many attacks were being executed. I didn’t know if my loved ones were safe. I didn’t know what to do.
For some, that feeling fades over time, and all we are left with is the memory of facts and figures. “X” number of people died from “x” number of terrorists. We forget that we were afraid of the unknown because the past is no longer unknown.