The Long Journey Home
By Zachary Moses Donate!
Today is September 11th, 2019.
Today is September 11th, 2019. It has been eighteen years, since terrorists hijacked 4 airplanes, in the United States, and coordinated the deadliest terrorist attack, in recorded history. This is the story of my long journey home, and what I remember about 9/11/2001.
They used two planes, to take out both World Trade Center towers in New York City, smashed one into the side of the Pentagon in Washington DC, and crashed the fourth into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers failed to take back control of the plane.
Every year, people ask me.
Every year, people ask me to reflect on where I was, September 11th, 2001. We have conversations about that day, but I’ve never written down my own experiences. I was eighteen years old, the day the attacks happened. I’m now 36. The attacks were exactly half my lifetime ago. I had just graduated from Hunter High School, Class of 2001, the first class of the new millennium, and like most millenials, I was ready to take on the world and make my mark. I was just finishing my first summer, away from my home state of Utah, working on the beaches of the Florida Panhandle.
It was a great summer.
It was a great summer. I’d been kayaking, sailing, and sunning on sugar-white beaches. I had a great tan. I was thoroughly enjoying being an adult, and able to finally make my own way in the world. Life, as it turned out, was easier for me away from Utah. I met tons of tourists, business people, artists, contractors, etc. I was exposed to new ways to make money, value my own labor, and live life to its fullest. The future looked bright, and I had big plans. I was ready to bring them home, to Utah.
My brother, Nathan, drove me to the airport that morning. My flight from Panama City, Florida would connect in Atlanta to a non-stop flight home to Salt Lake City, Utah. On my way to the airport we stopped at Oscar’s Cafe in Blue Mountain Beach, for a burrito. While we were waiting for Oscar to prepare our order, he came running out, yelling:
“WE’RE UNDER ATTACK! Come into the kitchen now, you have to see this, it’s unbelievable!”
Nathan and I ran behind the bar and into the kitchen where we watched on a tiny television all the remaining horrors of the day.
US airplanes were grounded.
US airplanes were grounded. Nobody knew when they were getting home. It took two days before I was allowed into the Panama City Airport again. It didn’t matter, they cancelled the flight that day anyway. Nathan and I, like many Americans, spent those days speculating about what these attacks would mean for the country.
Would we go to war? Peace efforts?
Watching the news unfold each day, I found myself tempted to stay in Florida, permanently. I was just starting my adult life, and I’d loved being away from home, and the too-often repressive culture of Utah. Maybe this was a sign to stay, not to mention, I was now freshly filled with terror, in regard to flying. The government didn’t even have a clue, yet, of what the death toll was. In the end 2,977 innocent people had been killed along with the 19 hijackers while more than 6,000 others were injured.
I finally did convince myself to fly home. I missed my cat, and I wanted to see my family more than ever. The flight was uncomfortable, and I noticed every single noise the airplane made, constantly fearing we would blow up, or fall from the sky. The other passengers on the flight to Atlanta were silent, and there was no cabin service. After landing in Atlanta, I found my connecting flight had been cancelled and spent an uncomfortable night on the airport floor. Flights were cancelled the next day, crews couldn’t be found, gates kept changing and I ended up spending another night sleeping on the airport floor. This pattern continued another day.
Everyone was afraid to leave the airport.
Everyone was afraid to leave the airport, for fear they wouldn’t let us back in. So, we all kept sleeping on the floor, refusing to leave and running out of money. We were all stranded refugees just wanting to get home to our families. When I finally did get home, the talk on the news was of politicians moving in the direction of war. Within months several members of congress even began talk of calling up the draft. I was eighteen and my father had insisted I register for the draft on my birthday. I began to worry that this National Emergency would lead to the horror stories I’d heard from draftees who’d served in the Vietnam War.
A constant state of National Emergency.
Each year, since 9/11, we’ve lived in a constant state of National Emergency. The war on terror, has now raged for over half of my lifetime, eighteen years. My son knows nothing else. Each year, more of our friends and loved ones, along with countless foreigners, die. As of July 7, 2018, there have been 2,372 U.S. military deaths in the War in Afghanistan. As of August 5, 2018, there have been 3,459 coalition deaths. That’s 2,854 more deaths by the US, and its allies, than occurred on 9/11. As for the people of Afghanistan, there have been over 31,000 civilian deaths, due to war-related violence. The Cost of War Project has estimated that the number killed indirectly, related to the war, may be as high as 360,000 additional people.
360,000 additional people.
I find it harder and harder to reflect each year on this topic. Knowing that our fellow friends, neighbors and countless innocent people continue to die every year, in the name of 9/11. Just last November, we lost Brent Taylor, Mayor of North Ogden, Utah.
During my campaign, I continually get to meet, and speak with our military veterans who survived their tours of duty and have returned from Afghanistan. They tell me stories, of the horrors they witnessed, or committed, the health hazards, and PTSD they now deal with. I hope by next year, when we stop and reflect, we can finally say we’ve done the right thing, and brought our people home.
Candidate for Utah Governor 2020
Make sure you’re registered to vote. Utah allows online applications, updates, etc. Their site is here.