“9/11” by Chris Schonberger, NYC

September 11 October 26, 2011 02:52

topic: 9/11 medium: TEXT

as submitted for the “9/11” Open Call



When the first plane hit I was in the library. It was the first week of the school year–that shows you how cool I was. There was one librarian who was always my nemesis and had kicked me out many times in previous years for talking and laughing to much. I retaliated by planting a remote-controlled fart machine near her desk and detonating it whenever someone approached her.
That day she wheeled a TV out into the main foyer of the library and turned it on. This was unprecedented: for the most part it was used for people watching foreign language instructional videos, and they had to wear headphones. A few of us wandered over and saw the footage of the first tower billowing smoke. There wasn’t as much gravitas as you’d think–i remember all the speculating going on revolved around idiot pilots or weather or failed air traffic controls. Of course, when the second plane hit the tenor shifted drastically, and those images were combined with news about the pentagon, the tenor shifted drastically. People were pretty quiet. Some called their parents from their cell phones–the librarian didn’t make them go outside. I did go outside to call my mom, but I don’t remember what we said.

I guess what strikes me most looking back is how rapidly everyone’s attitude shifted when it became clear that, no, these were not freak accidents, but rather an orchestrated attack. It flipped a switch immediately, and ten years later it remains flipped. Two weeks ago an earthquake caused the midtown building that I work in to shudder. 9/11 came up almost instantly. Ten years ago I was in a room watching footage of a plane taking down one of the country’s most famous buildings, and we hypothesized about every explanation under the sun *except* for a terrorist attack. Now, an unidentified rumble makes us think, “could it be?” You can learn a lot about a culture by how they try to explain the unexplained. The Greeks created deities to explain thunder and lightening. Today, our minds often jump to someone attacking us. That’s the lasting psychological damage of 9/11 that strikes me the most. Even years of war and seeing Osama waste away in caves and ultimately get shot with his porn stash and weed, we’re still that afraid. Sometimes I wonder who, or what, the next boogeyman will be. But I don’t like to think about it much.

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