scattered thoughts ten years later
On 09/11/2001 I woke up feeling extremely worried. It was the day of the first class in a course for hotline volunteers. How terrifying that this was ten years ago. It was on the very cusp of my adult life. I was starting tenth grade, and was technically younger than the required 16, but had been accepted nonetheless, and was now facing a class in a new place with a roomful of strangers who would, in all likelihood, be older than me. A set of circumstances to cause anxiety in a fussy teen concerned with first impressions, if ever there was one.
As I was getting ready to go, something caught my eye on the TV. It was footage of a plane flying directly into a very tall building. I had no idea what the building was, but I was knowledgeable enough in aerodynamics to know that this was not supposed to be happening. The footage repeated several times, slowed down to give me a chance to study every detail of the fuzzy picture. There were clouds of dust billowing from the building. It was folding into itself. I was being late.
It transpired, however, that I was one of the first to arrive. We sat on chairs arranged in a circle in the attic that would go on to house us, with our bonding, learning, and frustrations, two nights a week, rain or shine, for over a year (and then another year for me, five years later, when I had to repeat the course, having abandoned the hotline in favor of 10th grade exams, and then returned, tired of regretting that choice). We knew none of that yet. We were feeling awkward: two, then three, four people who knew nothing about each other, sitting around waiting. The only common topic we could find was what we had all seen on TV that morning, some having watched more than others.
So we sat there for half an hour, talking about the plane crashing into the building. Some knew more about the event than I did, but I think at that time nobody knew for sure. We thought perhaps war was about to break out. We speculated on whether this had been done on purpose or not. The older members of our incomplete circle explained some things, but I, conscious of being the youngest and wishing to appear clever (my perpetual goal as a teen), did not ask many questions, choosing to pronounce important-sounding opinions instead.
What I learned only weeks later was that one of the people in that circle, a young man who went on to be a good friend of mine, a crush even, was in fact studying to be a firefighter. He was learning all the skills which did not help the men and women who perished saving lives on 09/11, and he was doing it at a school which was, as I discovered, a bus stop away from my parents’ home. He went to the U.S. later for a work and travel program, saying he was sick of fighting fires. I do not know what became of him. I am not sure why this feels important and symbolic, but it does.
The world is small. It is very small and full of coincidences and connections. There is also much evil in the world. That in itself is not frightening. It is as it should be, perhaps. What is frightening, though, is the links that run through everything and everyone, and connect the evil to the good with ties which are impossible to sever. You never know, never can know, who and what will tip the scale that final little bit for the good to pull irreparable evil after it. This is what is scariest to me about 09/11, and I understood or contemplated none of it ten years ago.