Chula Vista, September 11, 2001
I woke up at around 8am to an empty room. Mike, my best friend, was already gone and I had two hours to join him in class. We both had the same freshman film class at Southwestern College at 10am. I rushed to shower, got dressed and biked it to the bus stop. The buses in San Diego had two bike racks on the front of the bus that you could lower and secure your bike in. I did so and hopped on the bus. It was unusually quiet, but i didn't think much of it. I was going through my regular motions that morning. As the bus driver attempted to pull into traffic, a car sped by and swiped the side of the bus.
Nobody was hurt and damage to the car seemed minimal. Both vehicles pulled over and the bus driver got out and exchanged information with the car. This took about five minutes of so. This was the first time I began to notice how quiet it was: nobody complained about being late for class or work, nobody even seemed annoyed - just subdued. Once the bus driver was finished with the car, she returned to the bus, apologized for the delay, and asked if anybody was hurt or needed medical attention. The bus stayed quiet, so she sat back down and began taking us to school.
There is a student lounge with a small game room at Southwestern College. In the game room, there was a WWE Royal Rumble video game, but we always called it the Smackdown machine. That's where I learned about what happened. Mike immediately told me about it.
As an 18 year old living in San Diego, I have only memories of learning about the World Trade Center. I remember a picture of it in one of my elementary textbooks in what I believe was fourth grade. I thought it was pretty cool to not only see such big buildings, but they looked alike! I called them the twin towers. Later, I would remember reading about how people used to climb them, or walk a tightrope between them. There was also an episode of the Simpsons where Homer had to pee, but the bathroom on the top floor of one building was out of order. The last thing I remember about it was it being featured in a movie trailer for the 2002 Spiderman movie. In it, there was some sort of bank robbery where the robbers escape by helicopter on the roof, except the helicopter gets caught in a large spider web in between the buildings of the twin towers. I only saw that trailer once.
So he told me that two planes hit the towers, but I don't think I really understood how deep the situation was, because I kinda blew it off. When it was time for class, we walked into a room watching a replay of the terror attack on TV - class was cancelled. We stayed for a little bit and I saw the replay of the first tower fall and was kinda shocked to see the magnitude. That was the first time it also hit me that a lot of people must have died.
Since class was cancelled, Mike and I left and went back to his place via bus. On the way, I began to realize that we were probably going to go to war over this and then I thought of Mark. Mark was a mutual friend of ours who had joined the Marines. Was he going to go to war? This was before I had made the decision to join the Navy, so that is why I wasn't worried about me at the time.
Eventually went back home and watched news footage of people looking for their loved ones. An overwhelming amount of pictures and posters or parents and wives and brothers and husbands, all suddenly lost. One I remember was looking for their fiance. I really have no further memory of that day. As YouTube became popular, I saw more video of the attacks that shocked me. I look back at my initial reaction fifteen years ago with some shame. Fifteen years ago, I was a completely different person. I wasn't a father, or a veteran, I was a college freshman with a film major. Hell, I even once got an F in U.S. History in high school because I thought it was boring. Damn. Time flies.
Eventually, I would join the Navy in January of 2003. My test scores were high enough to sign me up for a career as an intelligence specialist, but my family situation disqualified me from it (some of my brothers and sisters are not U.S. Citizens. Happened to my dad too. He worked at the Pentagon for a day in the 1970s until they found out his wife was a "foreign") Since by then we were definitely on our way to war, the guy who I talked to about my job pushed me into becoming an M.A., my other option was to go undesignated and the advice I heard was to not take that route.
I didn't like the job, not because of the work, that was easy, but because of the people I worked with. Let's just say that I saw some of what people see nowadays. I'm out now. Not only do I now believe in police reforms, but one reason I began studying history was in response to the mistakes made in the Iraq war. I believe we should analyze and learn from those mistakes. So that is two large parts of my life that was shaped by these attacks. I'm still not sure what it all means yet, though I know that our response has destabilized an entire region of the world and at this point, it seem as though we're way in over our heads. Realistically, I don't have a silver lining here, I just figured I'd share my thoughts on this occasion.
Here are some pictures I've taken during my travels.
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