Just like so many other catastrophic events in history, we try to recall where we were and what we felt when we heard about the 9/11 plane crashes.
I was completely clueless. I didn't have a TV in my dorm room. I was just a normal college student going about my routine...waking up, getting dressed, walking to class, ready to take notes.
My friend Becky informed me that there was "some plane crash in New York" when I sat down next to her. Later, I heard that some professors around campus had cancelled class for the day. But I had no idea of the seriousness of the event until, after class, I went to the dorm lobby to see what had really happened.
There, I fell into the couch watching for hours in mesmerized horror at the footage played over and over again on CNN. Could this be real? It looked like a disaster movie. My afternoon classes were cancelled. But I still had marching band practice.
On the field, our "coach" Dr. Robert Fleming gathered us together and gave a speech, as he was wont to do. He said he hadn't cancelled practice because, on a day like this, we needed to have support, we needed to be with family. (Because we spent so much time together, band became family.)
We marched about the practice field, playing half-heartedly and listening to the eerie silence of the sky. You see, our field was directly underneath the path of many planes headed for Sky Harbor International Airport. It wasn't odd to hear at least ten planes fly over during a normal practice.
No planes flew that day.
Except, when one lone FedEx plane flew overhead, we all stopped mid-step and looked up at this strange phenomenon.
Weird, how one event can make something so normal seem so foreign.
And that's kind of how the rest of the year played out. Things that were normal weren't normal.
Take for example the security at the airport...security checkpoints had always been there, but now you had to follow mongo rules...no liquids, no pocketknives, no nail clippers.
As a marching band member, I was told that I wasn't allowed inside Sun Devil Stadium with anything long, metal, and pointy. I played the piccolo...it is long, metal, and pointy!
At a prayer group, I wondered if certain ethnic groups were going to be isolated in internment camps (like the Japanese-Americans were during World War II). Was that going to be normal?
When one of my classes was cancelled, I had to wonder...was it a 9/11 reason or just the professor taking a day for educational reasons?
Now, ten years later, we've reached a new normal. One where we're more cautious, one where we're we're more outspoken, one where we're more patriotic even. Are these necessarily good things? I don't know.
But I do know that when my daughter studies this event in school in another 10 to 20 years, I'll be able to tell her exactly what 9/11 felt to me when it happened. And hopefully, my narrative will add another dimension to something flat coming from a history textbook.