The rumors started around lunchtime. Which, in high school, was more like 10:45 or 11. They were vague, and I didn't hear any directly. They just floated. Whispers from invisible mouths.
There was something about a bomb threat, but this was Rustburg, Virginia. It's not like that hadn't happened before. And no one ever followed through.
Just at the end of lunch, someone started panicking. Something about blowing up Lynchburg.
Why the heck would someone nuke Lynchburg, of all the places in the world?
After lunch I had history class. I would have been in 11th grade then, so it was Ms. Lipscomb. She took us into Mr. Singleton's room, but I still haven't figured out why. The tv was so snowy that, even if I had known what was happening, I couldn't have figured out what the reports were saying.
A lot of the kids didn't care. But the teachers didn't notice. They both sat, staring at the snowy screen, looking pretty grave about something.
The rest of the day was blurry. I think we stayed in history, but I don't really remember. I just know that no one in the school actually told us what we were supposed to be concerned about.
I only found out the details over the next few days, and not from school (ironically). By that point I was more annoyed about the hype than concerned with the tragedy. Who cares about a stupid tower in New York?
But I should have cared.
Only twice in the history of our country have we been attacked so blatantly, on our own soil. the first was Pearl Harbor. But at least then we had a face to go with it. Japan more than paid its dues.
Hundreds of people died for absolutely no reason. National security was breached in a major way. Money was siphoned. Equipment was destroyed. People were thrown into complete panic.
I should have cared. But I didn't.
Learning about all the people that died was like talking about Antietam in history class. The bloodiest day in the history of our country. 23,000 dead in one single-day battle. But it happened a week short of 139 years before 9-11. And I didn't know any of them. It was just a moment in history.
I didn't know anyone in New York. Or Pennsylvania. None of my family or friends were flying anywhere that day. The biggest effect it had on me was that school was practically empty for several days. Which was kind of fun.
I was 16. Old enough to take things more seriously. But I was too sheltered. It was too distant. Unlike so many other people in the country, I wasn't afraid to go to school, or to sleep at night. And I didn't really understand why I should be.
9-11 didn't really affect me at all. Not then, at least.
But ten years have passed since then. I've learned a few things over the years. That people can resolve their differences when something more important is at stake. About what patriotism means. That our country was strong, and wouldn't take such things lying down. About how quickly people forget...
People are back to their same old problems. Their same old arguments. Their same old complaints about the failings of America.
I don't think it will be too long before 9-11 day becomes just like Pearl Harbor day. Without cheating, how many of you even know what day that is?
Maybe I should have cared more. Been more concerned. Thought about the broader perspective. But I didn't. And I was okay.
Think about it. One of the biggest things that has ever happened to the American people, and how many of them didn't get hurt? How many didn't lose someone, didn't get stranded somewhere, didn't get too scared to sleep?
Even when we're in the middle of a direct attack on the people in New York City, we're still lucky. We're lucky that we have the freedom and safety to be complacent. We're lucky that we could just sit around not caring about 9-11, and nothing happened to us.
We didn't have to flee for our lives, or board our windows. We didn't have to suffer through hundreds of attacks.
We should care. I definitely should have. But I'm incredibly grateful to be living in a country where I'm safe enough and free enough to escape such a momentous event so completely unscathed.
Even if you take 9-11 for granted, don't do the same for our country.