9/11: A seven-year expiration date

Seven years ago today, at 8:45 a.m., I was in Social Studies learning about the Iroquois Confederacy. We'd just gotten into a discussion on wampum when the intercom switched on with a crackle and the principal told us that there'd been a terrible accident and a plane had flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

It was, and I remember this quote distinctly, "A great tragedy… a terrible loss of life." We sat in silence for a few minutes and then, our dues paid to the dead, we went back to wampum.

Fifteen minutes later I was in a different class, learning about integers, when the television switched on without preamble, and we watched live as a second plane flew over the CNN reporter's head and into the second tower. Math ceased to be important at that point.

The rest of the day is a blur in my mind. My mother was supposed to be flying, but her plane was grounded and she picked me up from school. My father, a firefighter, was glued to the TV and the phone, calling everyone he knew, being called by everyone who knew him. Most distinctly of all, I remember the way the sky looked: it was empty, absolutely empty of anything save for planes carrying guns and bombs instead of travelers.

That's what I remember of the day. I remember how the world changed and how, so briefly, the nation changed. For a moment, we ceased to be Democrats and Republicans and conservatives and liberals. For one shining moment, America came together; we were bound to each other by grief and patriotic anger. The world came to us and said, "We grieve with you, and we'll help you," and for a short while, we were all of one mind.

How soon we forget. Seven years have passed, and I'm ashamed to say that there's no memorial in the works here on campus. There will be no candlelight vigil like there was last year, because nobody has planned one. On the one day every year when Americans are very nearly compelled to come together as one people, indivisible, we won't.

I'll walk around campus, and memories of empty skies and smoking towers will be in my mind, and you might remember your day, seven years ago, but there won't be a gathering of people who want to remember together.

So this is my personal plea: ask someone what they remember about Sept. 11, or the following weeks and months. Start a conversation, and remember people you lost that day. Personally, I'd like to mention the name of firefighter Matthew Barnes of NYC Ladder 23, who left a wife and three kids behind when he went to save people he'd never met. Who do you remember? Will you tell me?

Aaron Davis is a sophomore English major.

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