I was a senior in high school, and that morning I went to the library as I usually did to work on my independent study project (the topic was World War I trench warfare, if I remember right). I was reading and taking notes when the head librarian came out of his office, obviously distraught, and turned on a television in the newspaper corner of the library. We all stood in silence for the next 30 minutes, not really sure what to say.
I knew it was one of those moments, like when my parents talk about seeing Neil Armstrong on the moon, or when John F. Kennedy was shot, where everybody knew exactly where they were at the time. The next class period, geography (I did a report that semester on Qatar, because I knew there wasn't much there outside of people), we watched the entire time, and I remember the incomprehensible weight of the moment when the second tower collapsed. The sky was blue and clear behind it, framed by the rooftops that for so many years had stood in awe of their two neighbours. Charring, billowing smoke and dust began to smote the sun.
That night, though far away from New York, I felt completely, utterly, vulnerable. I was 17 years old, I thought I knew where I was going (Madison), and I thought I knew that, no matter what happened, things were going to be okay. The disaster seemed to directly contradict that, and I didn't know what to do. That's when the President came onto television and told us that everything was okay, and that the people who did it would be brought to justice. In one simple statement, he brought comfort to me - everything was going to be okay.
Now I know better, because things got complicated, what I was then is not what I am now, and what the United States is as a country is not what it was before. That's the nature of life, really, change - I'm ten years from September 11th, 2001, and hundreds of miles away, in places I never thought I'd be. Saddam Hussein is dead, Osama Bin Laden is dead, and the United States is still chasing something in the desert. The world doesn't like the U.S. (they didn't really before, either), but there's some kernel of the country that's appreciable - the part that isn't interested in killing people, probably.
Whatever the case, I hope we all can take this occasion to care about one another, to be better people, honour the lost loved ones, and to remember who we were when we knew our world was going to change.