I recall the day being very quiet, as if the world had stopped breathing.
When the tragedy actually occurred, I was most likely asleep.
The first moment I realized what had happened, I was in my dorm room. Having just showered, I turned on the television while I finished dressing for class. The only thing I really remember is being completely dumb-founded. I stood for a few moments, watching the news feed play and replay the collapsing of the towers and I couldn't move.
Even though my brain and eyes struggled to convince me that what I was witnessing wasn't real, my heart and legs had already succumbed. I sank to my bed and for a full minute, I stopped breathing. Things like this don't happen... not here. Tragedies like this occur in other parts of the world ... not here.
I don't remember how I got to my lab that day, I'm not even sure if I was on time. But, I do remember that we didn't have much of a class that day-- everyone made it to the lecture, they just weren't too keen about classifying the insects that were pinned to their dissection trays.
Everyone walked into the entomology lab with dazed expressions. But, midway through class, those dazed expressions became livid, seething facades that were within a breath of snapping. Our professor, in her late thirties and originally from Bolivia, did not endear herself to much of the Biology department that day.
As the fellow members of my class opened their hearts about the horrendous events of the morning, we watched the expression of our professor shift from one of indifference to almost smug satisfaction.
At some point, our professor finally spoke. The exact words she said have long been forgotten, but the meaning behind them was quite clear---
She spent the rest of the lab time trying to explain to a room full of passionate biologists exactly what she meant when she said she was glad it had happened---
Amid the back-and-forth bickering between professor and class, I think I finally understood what she was trying to say. Though, I'm afraid the rest of the class left with more than a bitter taste in their mouth.
She was glad the tragedy had happened--- not glad about the people dying (no one could be glad about that, she explained)--- no, she was glad the tragedy had happened because it might, she reasoned, wake the American public up to the fact that they weren't better than the rest of the world and that they weren't invincible.
She tried to explain what America looked like to a non-American.
As she spoke, I could feel the tension in the room escalate. Nobody wanted to hear that the world viewed most Americans as privileged, egocentric maniacs who felt they were protected from grave misfortune and entitled to everything the world had to offer simply because they were born in the United States.
No one wanted to hear that the tragedy they believed themselves to be shielded from had found a way inside their protective bubble.
It wasn't an easy pill to swallow. Suddenly the words that ran through my mind when I turned on the television that morning replayed, looping in my conscious mind much like video loop of the World Trade Center falling over and over---- Things like this don't happen... not here. Tragedies like this occur in other parts of the world ... not here.