Jesse Burgess’s 9/11 Experience
I was 20 years old attending Wabash College and eating breakfast when a friend approached me in a panic and said, “Did you see the plane fly into a building in New York City!?!” I thought it was a joke, so I continued to eat my breakfast; I had a class to attend in about an hour. After breakfast I went up to my room to grab my backpack and books for class, however, I was curious if my friend was actually telling the truth, so I turned on the news. Sure enough, a passenger plane had flown into one of the World Trade Centers. At that point, it was still believed to be an accident. As I was glued to the TV, for a moment I forgot about everything else around me. As I was listening to the frantic reporting and watching the news footage of the World Trade Center on fire I saw the second plane fly into the other building. I was horrified, building debris was falling thousands of feet and landing on the ground, as a camera man zoomed in to identify the pieces of the debris I could see it was a person jumping to avoid the raging fire in their office. Never in my mind would I have ever believed what I saw next, an entire building constructed of steel collapse like an empty paper bag all the way to the ground. What about all those people? Did they somehow get out? What the heck is going on?
Confused, shocked, and not really understanding the scope of the events unfolding I went to class wondering about the events unfolding in New York. When I entered class, it was the talk of the hour; surprising everyone was there. The class was entitled, The Military Revolution… it wasn’t until later that I would realize the irony. For the next hour we dismissed the discussion over the reading from the night before, we just talked. We asked questions, shared what we personally witnessed, and periodically received updates about new events unfolding from students on their laptops. The events of that day changed the world forever. Prior to September 11, 2001 terrorism was something I only read about happening in other parts of the world. Words and phrases like “The War on Terror”, “Osama bin Laden”, “Al Qaeda”, “Cruise Missile” and “Axis of Evil” were foreign to most Americans. The new President had just won a controversial election and his focus was on domestic issues, who would have thought he would end up being the President of two wars to “stop the spread of terrorism”. Today, terrorism is common, I hear about a new event occurring every day and so to do our students. But ultimately it’s only truly effective if one allows the fear of terrorism to influence daily decisions – to scare individuals into not doing what is right because it is difficult. Let us not allow terrorism to work as we strive to make the right decisions, the difficult decisions.