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Memories of Sept. 11, 2001

September 11, 2011

I was in Seattle with Kate on Sept. 11, 2001. I was finishing writing my thesis, and so was splitting my time between Seattle and Pittsburgh. I have three particularly strong memories of that day. The first was waking up to NPR and fuzzily hearing something about a plane hitting a tower. It took several seconds to make sense of what NPR was talking about, and then Kate and I dashed for the living room to turn on the TV and learn more about what was going on.

The second memory was walking up Queen Anne hill that afternoon and looking out over Elliot Bay to see a warship parked midway between downtown and Bainbridge Island. There was so much uncertainty that day that someone doubtlessly decided that a visible military presence might reassure people, plus that it was better to be safe than sorry.

The last memory was of how quiet it was in the city on that walk. There weren’t any planes in the sky, and almost everyone was staying home rather than going to or from work or running errands.

I have one more strong memory of that time, from when I fly back to Pittsburgh for the first time afterward. It was a redeye flight, and the airport was deserted. There were maybe 10-15 people on my flight. Everyone was very quiet, they sat by themselves, and they looked at the other passengers. If I had to choose one word the mood, it would not be “nervous” or “concerned”; it would be “aware”.

Looking back 10 years later, I can’t help regret lost opportunities. The lost opportunity to come together as a nation, when we now seem to find ourselves even further apart. The lost opportunity to focus on freedom rather than fear (as Bruce Schneier put it, “Refuse to be terrorized“). And the lost opportunity to spend some $3.3 trillion on way that would better benefit the nation (our infrastructure, our schools, science, job training, etc.).

From → Musings

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