By Zachary Moses Donate!
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.
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 win control of the plane.
Every year people ask me to reflect on where I was on September 11th, 2001. We always have conversations about that day, but I’ve never written my experiences down for public viewing. I was eighteen years old on the day the attacks happened and I’m now 36. The attacks were exactly half my life ago. For me, I was freshly graduated from high school and ready to take on the world. Hunter High School Class of 2001, the first class of the new millennium. Like most Millennial’s, I was ready to make my mark on the world. I had just finished my first summer away from my home state of Utah, where I was working on the beaches of the Florida Panhandle. It had been a great summer spent kayaking, sailing and sunning on sugar white beaches. I had a great tan. I was thoroughly enjoying being an adult and finally making my own way in the world. Life, it turned out, was easier for me away from Utah. I met tons of tourists, business people, artists, contractors, etc. I was exposed to completely new ideas on how to make money, value my own labor and live life to its fullest. I was supercharged with new ideas and ready to bring them home to Utah. The future sure looked bright and I had big plans.
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, and 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 spent those days speculating about what these attacks would mean for the country. Would we go to war? Peace efforts? Watching the news 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 that 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, 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.
Each year since 9/11 we’ve lived in a state of National Emergency. The war on terror has now raged for over half 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 and as of August 5, 2018, there have been 3,459 coalition deaths. That’s 2857 more deaths by the US and its allies then occurred on 9/11. As for the people of Afghanistan, there have been over 31,000 civilian deaths due to war-related violence, and 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.
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 each year in the name of 9/11. Last November we lost Brent Taylor, Mayor of North Ogden, Utah. During my campaign I continually meet and speak with our military veterans who’ve survived their tour of duty and have returned from Afghanistan. They tell me stories of the horrors they’ve witnessed or committed and 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.
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