Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I parked my car in our dusty unpaved school parking lot and walked through the field to pre-calculus. After I stepped into the door of my first period class and sat down, none of us moved for the rest of the day. I sat on the floor for the next three, it seemed like forever, hours; unable to look away from the television. Nobody could have imagined planes colliding with the World Trade Center towers, the horror of desperate men and women hurling themselves out of windows hoping for a miracle or a quicker means to an inevitable finale. Even then it hadn't sunk in that that day would be a day I would remember forever.

Earlier in my highschool career we were tasked with writing a history essay employing only primary sources. I had interviewed one of my mom's co-workers who recounted to me living through World War II and the fear they had felt as his family had gathered around the tv watching and waiting as President Kennedy navigated the Bay of Pigs invasion. I didn't occur to me until a few years ago that those were defining moments in history, events that shaped modern society, events that a generation had the tragic privilege of living through. At this point, I think there are very few people who do not have a story about where they were on September 11th, 2001. It is not because the Bush administration repeats that that was the date where his outlook on the presidency changed, admonishes those who haven't "adjusted to a new paradigm of the world", but simply because it was a national tragedy that reached everyone's heart from the left coast to the Atlantic.

That following year I made the decision to accept my enrollment to Columbia University in New York City. At our commencement address only four months ago, President Bollinger said of our enrollment decision as being, "difficult not just because picking a college is a big decision, but for a far more momentous reason: you were among the first group of college students to arrive in New York after September 11. Your choice, in the aftermath of the attacks, must have seemed risky. But in choosing this city, at a time of such upheaval, you sent a very clear message. You said, in effect, "I want my education to be in and of the world."

In a way it was terrifying to be away from home in the most important city in the world. It was a city that was known for indifference to its inhabitants, a city where everyone could be somebody and everyone could be nobody; it was a city in which I knew no one (I do believe now that New Yorkers are amongst the best people I have ever met in my life, in no way deserving the cold reputation that they are attributed with). At the end of my stay at Columbia, I left with a sense that there is much to be done in the world and many injustices to be fought against. I had my eyes opened to the best that the world had to offer and the very worst that is at times present in the best. September 11, 2001 did not fundamentally change me as a person, I had no shining light moment telling me to live each day like my last or to dedicate myself to humanitarian causes, or even that the Apocalypse was approaching. It did hasten my realization that we as inhabitants of this planet can do much better and that accountability always comes full circle.

"When we look at the modern man we have to face the fact that the modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance, we have learned to fly the air like birds, we have learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we have not learned to walk the earth as brothers and sisters." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr