Of course I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I remember the perfect blue sky; I was at an outdoor Chamber Coffee held at Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon in Commerce Park. I was among friends and colleagues, enjoying a beautiful Tuesday morning.
I was talking with Ray Evans, whose office was hosting the get-together, when his secretary came out the door and told him that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I left, and listened in my car to the news.
I was watching CNN in the kitchen as I worked at my sewing machine, believing it to be a horrible accident, when the second plane hit. I watched it happen in real time. My blood ran cold, and the next hour was an exercise in just keeping calm.
When my husband came home before lunch — Y-12 sent everyone home as a precaution — I decided that it was time to go get the kids from school. Yeah, before lunch. I wasn’t the only one… I think about half the student body checked out early that day.
* * *
Today is a day that looks very much the same, with that perfect early autumn sky. So much is different: we’ve spent billions on security and military action and are safer in some regards, but no safer in others. So much is the same: we cannot prevent the unthinkable. Osama Bin Laden is dead, as is Saddam Hussein, but there are others who wish us harm — some of whom live among us. We don’t know who they are. In most cases, we don’t even know why they hate us.
* * *
Today I think about my firstborn, working in a landmark Chicago skyscraper. I think about how people have changed since then, with far greater numbers looking for conspiracy around every corner. It seems like — at least locally — more people get their news from Facebook than from the news media, and that many in the news business have gravitated toward either breaking the story first (with little emphasis on getting it right), or toward emphasizing the sensational over simply providing information.
We have greater instant access to more information than ever before, but as a society, it seems we’re less informed than we were a half-century ago. We grab mcnuggets of information on the fly, not bothering to question, fact-check or seek more in-depth resources. If we’re less informed, are we not at greater risk — not necessarily just from terrorism, but all manner of harm?
We must remember how to think for ourselves, to access information from both sides of any issue, and try to become the strong, conscientious people who built this great nation. Only then will we be safe, not only from outside threats, but from our own self-destruction.