Opinion: 9/11 is what we make of it

I feel I would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to reflect on the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. It is fair to say that day changed the world we live in for every person in this country. It changed my life for sure. I realize this column is nearly a week late from the anniversary, but it transcends boundaries. I could write about it at any time, and its connection with people would be there.

I feel I would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to reflect on the terrorist attacks of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. It is fair to say that day changed the world we live in for every person in this country. It changed my life for sure.

I realize this column is nearly a week late from the anniversary, but it transcends boundaries. I could write about it at any time, and its connection with people would be there.

Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.
Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.

You may have been moved emotionally, lived with more invasive government policies, known a victim or any combination of the three. For anyone who has been in the military since that time, the effect goes without saying. You either made the choice to leave your everyday life because of it or had your time of service affected by it.

9/11 is unique because it transcends traditional boundaries of military events. Because it was an attack on the soil of the United States, it inevitably draws comparison to the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The difference is that Pearl Harbor was and still is a Navy base, thus it was primarily an attack on the United States military.

9/11 was an attack that we relied on the military to counter, but it was an attack on the American public. It struck a chord of fear in nearly everyone. It also struck a cord of anger. It tested the integrity and pride of our country as a whole.

I was in a high school math class.  I remember my teacher more than hearing the words or seeing the video of the planes hitting the Twin Towers. He got a phone call in the middle of class, stopped the lecture, sat back in his chair and said “Oh my god.”

Nobody knew what happened on that phone call for a good five minutes. He eventually composed himself and apologized that we would hear about this from him and not our parents. The devastation on his face was my gauge for how serious this was.

The words “two planes just hit the World Trade Center Towers” have never resonated with me as much as the despair on his face and body.

Then we saw images of family members to those who were in the towers and heard the phone call recording of a woman on the plane that was downed in Pennsylvania to her family where she said how much she loved them.

It was a day of tragedy. As a country we could sit around and sulk in our losses, but we did not. The first step was taken by President George W. Bush. Like him or hate him, deeming Sept. 11 Patriots Day was the first big step towards turning tragedy into triumph.

Following his lead, hundreds of thousands of men and women volunteered to stand up for the victims and our country over the next decade. For the first time since the inception of the Montgomery G.I. Bill in 1944, our government changed the education benefit plan for veterans and offered the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

It was a different world  after that day.

Americans started to live in fear. So it is with unabashed excitement that I tell you about my life after September 11, 2001. It all changed when I took a trip with my sister to New York City to see my beloved Detroit Tigers play the Yankees.

Rubble from the World Trade Center towers still not cleaned up six years after 9/11.
Rubble from the World Trade Center towers still piled in New York City in 2007.

One of our stops was Ground Zero. It was similar to the feeling you get when watching a horror movie, when you know something bad is about to happen. This was in 2007, and there was still rubble and re-bar fenced off. I couldn’t get a full grip on the reality of the situation until that cold and rainy evening.

I was so moved by what I saw that it pushed me over the edge. I had to do something myself, so I joined the fight.

Since then, I have tried to make the negative into a positive. I left on Sept. 11 to my first deployment to Afghanistan. My boarding pass with that date and final destination is one of my favorite keepsakes.

One of my father’s dreams has been to be a pilot. He is in his sixties now and called me a few years ago to tell me he took his first pilot lesson on 9/11. This all tells me that we are not scared. The loss of life is tragic, but we have to move on.

My first child’s due date was supposed to be Aug. 31, 2012. He didn’t come out then. Due to medical circumstances, my wife was induced on Sept. 10.

He eventually came on Sept. 11. Born at a military hospital on that date, I cannot imagine a better way to counter the messages the perpetrators of 9/11 tried to spread.

My wife and I, along with our country, are not afraid.

Life is all about making positive from the negative, so please share your 9/11 stories and aftermath. Our reaction to the worst day in recent history for our country is more inspiring than the loss we suffered on that day.

Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.

Edited by Maggie Jones