By Laurie Kamenic
The first week of September 2001 found me living in a new home, in a new (but familiar) state, with a new job. I spent the weekend before September 11 unpacking items, trying to get my life in order. Around 8:25 a.m. on the morning of the 11th, I headed off to my new job, teaching at the Community College of Allegheny County. It was a rather long drive, but I remember looking at the familiar hills, valleys, and trees on the drive as I was thinking about how glad I was to be back in Pennsylvania after living in South Carolina for the past few years. As I drove down a long, winding hill into McKeesport, I heard someone on the radio announce that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I didn’t pay much attention to the announcement, other than to wonder how a plane could hit a tall building on such a clear, sunny day.
As I entered the doors of the school, a security guard stopped me and told me to turn around and go home. “We’re closing,” he said. “There has been a terrorist attack, and all the local schools are sending people home.” I remember feeling disbelief, then panic, at the thought of my two children being an hour away from me in their new school. I started out of the parking lot, which quickly became gridlocked. I tried to call relatives on my cell phone, but to no avail. Everyone else had the same thought. I continued to drive home, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. That afternoon, I tried to explain to my children, then five and seven years old, what had happened, but could not find the words. To my children, the words “terrorist” and “hijacking” didn’t yet exist. Other terms like “bad men” didn’t work either.
In the years since the attacks, I find it difficult to watch any of the coverage of that day, or the scores of television programs that have cropped up every year which explore various aspects of the attacks. I’m torn between wondering if the coverage is exploitation or honor of the memory of those who died. I feel safer now than I did in the weeks following September 11, 2001, but I will never again feel as complacent as I did on September 10th, 2001.