Ten years ago today, I was in a painting class as a junior in high school. We turned on the news and watched the smoke billow from the first tower, listening to the news anchors' alarmed confusion about the "accident" that had just occurred. Moments later, still glued to the TV, the second plane crashed live, right before our eyes. I will never forget that moment of horror. Every class was canceled that day as we quietly conversed and watched the news, hungry for information. That evening I went to a friend's house to study for an American History exam. We spoke of the irony of the situation as we went over flash cards for a piece of history that I can't even recall now. Though images and moments from that day will be forever vivid, the outstanding memory is that of coming together in a way that I had not experienced before. A true feeling of pride for the country - all fifty states united, mourning for the tragedy that occurred. My world was instantly expanded beyond my small coastal Georgia town - I now had a heightened interest for and awareness of the country at large, and the parts of the world that had attacked us.
Since that day, I have voted in two elections, graduated from high school and from college, moved to New York City, and worked for several companies - paying state & federal taxes. I am a New Yorker and also, in a way, more of an American citizen, in that I contribute and consume with my own income. I'm in Paris at the moment, which makes this ten year anniversary especially interesting for me because I'm looking at America from a somewhat removed perspective. It's funny though, because this trip abroad leaves me feeling less removed than previous trips across the pond. I have a computer with me and am able to email friends & family, check Facebook, and browse my favorite blogs. Overall, I realize that I am still very connected. Through social media, I am able to check in daily with almost everyone I know - be it childhood friends, family, recent coworkers, or my best buds. It doesn't matter whether they are in New York, California, Amsterdam, or South Korea. We share stories, joys, sorrows, news, and photos. We engage in conversations: expressing sympathy to a friend for a loss of a parent, celebrating a beautiful home cooked meal, laughing together over the "d'oh" moments on the day, and high-fiving each other for accomplishments small and large.
I can't help but wonder if this shared desire for constant connectedness is in any way a response to 9/11 and the increased national unity that followed. While that past ten years have been filled with a generous share of bad news (Katrina & the collapse of the economy are two that come to mind immediately), I can't help but delight in the fact that we can now share the news - good and bad, all together. We remain united - through social media, but more importantly, through our desire to stay connected to each other.
P.S. While we are talking about 9/11, I have to take a moment to wish a very happy birthday to one of my dearest friends, Ashley Norton! While I can't be there to celebrate with her tonight, I can at least share my love on my blog, which I know she will read :)