Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rewriting my story

By any measure, it was a beautiful morning. Cool blue skies were a welcome relief for Virginia and the nation's capitol. The lazy days of summer were beginning to give way to the fall and a return to normal. For a region defined by hustle and bustle, there was a certain serenity to the moment.

That was this morning.

I woke up in my apartment just blocks from the Pentagon and couldn't help but think about how my story has changed dramatically in the last 3,287 days.

The first Sept. 11th happened my junior year of high school. Not just that year, but while I was on our junior class trip to Washington D.C. That was another idyllic morning in D.C. Clear blue skies, on a cool fall morning, it was a perfect day. The highlight of our trip was the tour of the White House that was supposed to start between 9:30 and 10:00 that morning.

When we arrived at the White House, one of our group got a call from her dad asking to talk to the trip leader. At first, I was surprised that someone had a cellphone they brought with them since roaming charges were crazy, but I was soon more concerned with the look on our leader's face. From what I could eavesdrop from the conversation, a plane had flown into one of the buildings of the World Trade Center. This was odd, but I knew that happened sometimes with skyscrapers - in my mind nothing would stand in the way of my dream of visiting the White House.

That all changed when I heard them discuss a second plane. Everything went too fast from that point. Guards began to scramble into and out of the buildings around the White House, shotguns, bulletproof vests, then assault rifles... About that time we were encourageed to clear the grounds - by running, not walking, running. Our group fled to our bus and headed out of town but had to pass by the Pentagon on I-395. By then, we had heard what had happened and sure enough, there was a hole and billows of smoke. Problem is we had to drive past on a road that was being shut down. Thankfully a firefighter spotted our bus as a school group and made us one of the last vehicles to pass by.

We made it home to Little Rock the next day, still unsure of what all we had seen and what had happened. None of us knew the gravity of the situation until we pulled into the church parking lot to find everyone we knew and tv camera crews ready to greet us. We weren't quite sure what, but we knew we had survived.

The next few weeks, the story was all we talked about. Everyone wanted to know how it felt, what we thought, and what it was like. But as always happens with time, the story started to fade. It got shorter. Fewer people wanted to listen. Or maybe I got tired of telling it.

College came and went. Then seminary and grad school. Memories came back last summer when I lived up here while working at my internship, but it was a short trip and life got back to normal. Since moving up here in August, I have thought about just how much things have changed and today of days it is worth considering.

It has been nine years since that day, but I am on a path that is no doubt impacted by what happened. After all, it was the process of coming to grips with how my world had changed that I became interested in politics and government. I majored in political science, got my masters in public administration and now am working on a law degree. I may not have thought about that last September day on a regular basis in class, but it was no doubt the driving force behind where I am today.

My trip has brought me full circle. Not just to D.C., but even to the place I live. See, my apartment building is on the otherside of where I sat on I-395 watching smoke pour out of the Pentagon. On my right that day, a burning building symbolized a change in my future. I geuss i should have just looked to my left to see what exactly that might mean.

Nine years later, in exactly the same place, I look back to where I have come from wondering where it is taking me next.

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