Twenty years ago today I was a freshman at Cornell University. I’d only been to NYC once before, during my family’s college tour trip in spring of 2000.
I was in class when the attacks happened. Eventually when I got to our creative writing class (or whatever it was called – Cornell made every freshman take this class regardless of major) the professor said he wasn’t sure if he should go on in light of what happened. I’d been in class all day so I had no idea what he was talking about. Later, when I got back to my dorm I had a bunch of emails to check the news. That’s when I saw the smoke coming out of the towers, but I still wasn’t sure what was going on. That day was my first day doing my work study job to update a slideshow that played on TVs throughout the campus. I was told to just listen to the news and update the slides accordingly. My brand new girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was freaked out because sometimes her dad had business at the World Trade Center and the phones weren’t connecting. It was a few days before it all made sense to me and I understood what was happening.
Since a good chunk of the student body was from NYC, the school held a vigil a few days later. I recorded the vigil and, as my coping mechanism, later made the following video, which I submitted to the digital video club showcase later that year.
According to metadata on the original file (I re-encoded to MP4 to take up less space), I made it somewhere around 25 Sept 2001.
It was such a different world back then when it came to understanding what was going on. There wasn’t Twitter or Youtube. I didn’t even have a blog until 2 years later. (Not this one, which started in 2005, my previous blog)
For a while the 11 Sept attacks made incredibly large ripples throughout society. The Afghan War, which just ended last week. The Iraq War, which led to ISIS. The TSA and all the changes to airplane travel that make it almost hilarious that movies with plots like Home Alone 2 could exist. I became very political in my blogging and thoughts for a long time. Eventually it all faded. To be honest, I was half surprised we were still at war in Afghanistan. I thought we’d trained up their military and left years ago.
In a lot of ways we still live with the legacy of the attacks in various laws and procedures, but it’s mostly faded to the background and we now have adults who have completely grown up in the aftermath – who never knew a world before the attacks. It feels strange to have it have happened so far in the past when it was such a large part of my early adulthood.