September 11, 2001 Reflections From a Maine Millennial
20 years. That doesn't seem possible, does it? So much can happen in 20 years. A mom can go through pregnancy, give birth, and raise a child to adulthood in that amount of time. One can start kindergarten and go through law school in that amount of time. 20 years is a long time.
It's a long time and yet, September 11, 2001, in many ways, feels like yesterday.
I was 11 years old. A 6th grader at Nobleboro Central School. Things were business as usual until Mrs. Hammer, our school guidance counselor came in and said that an airplane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers and that if we had any family we wanted to check on we could go to the office to do so. I didn't think much of it. I knew it was bad but I figured it was a freak accident and freak accidents happened.
Not long after that, the 2nd plane hit. The class next to mine was watching The TODAY Show and saw it happen. I believe my older brother was in the room at the time as an 8th grader. We then joined in on watching the TV. Still not really knowing what was happening, just thinking it was super weird and admittedly being totally okay with missing out on normal classes for the day.
It wasn't until things began unfolding over the next few days that 11-year-old Brittany started to grasp what had happened.
As a Mainer, I was particularly impacted knowing that two of the terrorists, Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz al-Omari came through Maine. Suddenly my safe little bubble in the northeast felt exposed. My child-like outlook on the world was forever changed. My innocence felt tarnished.
I was from a small town. Didn't get out much. Had never flown. And suddenly I felt a lump in my throat whenever a plane appeared to be flying lower than it should. Honestly, for a while, I just didn't let myself look at them.
This was a huge day for millennials. Most of us were pre-teens through college-aged. It rocked our world. It was a big, and early wake-up call that life is unpredictable can be unsafe, and began a decades-long war. Some of us joining, many of us supporting those who did, and some of us having lost loved ones.
It's inevitable when meeting someone new to bring up, "Where were you on 9/11." It's like previous generations asking about where someone was when JFK was shot. We all remember even if we weren't directly hit with loss, we lost part of the innocence of our youth.
9/11 really ushered in the 24-hour news cycle. Even South Park capitalized on how addicted we all became to CNN just wanting to know what was going on. This was the beginning of immediately available information and paved the way to social media and the rapid-fire news stories we see today. September 11, 2001, changed the world in ways we never even considered.
There is no doubt that there is a ton of division today. I feel like a lot of that is fueled by the fact that we are constantly bombarded with information, misinformation, opinions, 24/7 but that's a conversation for another day. I do know one thing, I witnessed this country more unified in the days following 9/11 than any other time in my life. I hope it doesn't take another terrorist attack to experience that again.
My own personal tradition for the day is taking time to watch documentaries/TV specials about that day. Rewatching the footage, listening to audio recordings, hearing the stories from those that lived it, as somber as it still is two decades later, it's something I feel like I need to do to feel that connection. To not forget.
I hope that this weekend we can all take time to remember those who died that day and in the days and years after. Those who died from decades of war, those who suffered from lingering health effects from being present at ground zero, and those who are still dealing with loss and heartbreak today.