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Where were you the day the world stopped.....

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. 


  1. "The day the world stopped" -- that was about it. And I can relate to your thinking "not here" at the time. Now? Not so much.

  2. interesting take on 9/11 - I can see her point but it was pretty tactless of her to make it at that particular time

  3. Those of us who were adults will never forget the "where were you when" of this day. Whether or not it happened for a "reason", it was of the caliber of Pearl Harbor for me. Blessings, Terri

  4. This is a good posting!

    I remember thinking: now our children will die soon, this means a nuclear war. And I live in Europe. For the USA, this was more than traumatic I think.

    That professor must have reacted out of shock, what a horrible thing to say!

  5. Interesting thoughts from the professor but the wrong day. Dialog on a tragedy as it is happening on that day when people are feeling so much heartache and pain is insensitive. That was not the time or the day.
    I praise those who felt they had to take a stand and walk out. I certainly would have.
    Thanks for posting.
    God Bless America,

  6. My parents generation asks where they were when the moon landing happened. My grandparents, it was D-day.

    This is mine.

  7. Although it was tactless of the prof. to say those things at the time, she was absolutely correct in how most other countries view America. I remember thinking just days before 9/11 that I could never live in a country like Israel where you never knew when a bomb might go off and kill you. When it happened here, after my initial panic, I remembered back to that thought and realized how ironic it was and how isolationist I had been.

  8. Very powerful write, this makes me think of many mamy things, so well done.. thank you, and very much appreciated, WS

  9. westwood, I think the defining event of the moon landing generation, was the assassination of President Kennedy.

    The point I find interesting is that even if someone doesn't like how Americans present themselves, they still want to be here...not in their own country.



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