Ten Years Ago, Where Were You?

Where were you on 9/11? Most of us will remember, since we often recall where we were and what we were doing when something traumatic happens. I was in my car, a beat-up old white Suzuki, driving to school in a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. Every morning I used to listen to a radio show with two guys who were constantly making really bad, and often tasteless, jokes. So when they said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, I thought it was a joke.

I kept on driving, parked the car, and went to my math class with a strange feeling that something was not right. The teacher must have just heard and wasn’t sure what to make of it either, so he carried the class on as usual. By the time my next class, Oceanography, started, everyone knew that this was something out of the ordinary. We sat in our desks, and the teacher was as frazzled as we all were and was trying to get reception on the classroom TV without much success. Then the power went out. A creeping panic started to spread. What was happening? Was this small community college in Florida being attacked as well? It turned out to be pure coincidence, but class was quickly dismissed and we all went home.

I had a friend visiting from Sweden at the time, and when I got back to my apartment she and my room mate was watching the news. This was the first visuals I actually got of the event and right at that moment the second tower collapsed. I had lived in the U.S. for little over a year, and this all seemed almost like a bad Hollywood movie. How could planes just crash into buildings like that? We also didn’t realize just how serious the whole thing was, it just felt kind of surreal. None of us had ever been in New York at the time, and didn’t know anyone who lived there either. This made it seem like a distant threat, sort of like car bombs going off in the middle east or starvation in Africa.

We had a barbecue with friends that same night and I remember watching George W’s address to the nation while drinking cheap beer (as college students do). I’m kind of embarrassed that I didn’t do something more profound that night, but it’s easy to look through life in the rear-view mirror and wish you could make edits.

When I think about how things have changed in the last ten years, it’s amazing how different my life has become. I did not even own a computer at the time. Now, half my life is spent in front of a screen. The only phone I had was the kind that is connected to a wall. We’re more connected than ever, yet more sheltered.

When I got my first Visa to study in the United States, I went to the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm and dropped off my passport and filled-out paperwork in a box. The next day, I came back to pick up the Visa. Easy like Sunday morning. When I went to renew it in 2002, however, the process was entirely different. Instead of one day it now took weeks. I had to rebook my flight back several times and almost missed the start of school before I got it approved. Now it’s even common for students to be denied Visas for no particular reason.

We’ve also had to get used to the tighter post-nineeleven airport security. I remember a story that a friend who worked at the check-in counter for an airline told me shortly after 9/11. A few years before she had a passenger who was checking in to his flight and wanted to bring a box with 50 knives (perhaps he was a dealer or collector). The airline, my friend said, did not want to let him check it because it may be dangerous for the baggage handlers, so instead they told him he had to bring it as a carry-on. A box of fifty knives! He did not hi-jack the plane, but imagine what would happen if a guy would try to bring that as a carry-on today.

It is a very different world we live in today, ten years after 9/11/01. Let’s remember the victims of this tragic event and do everything we can to stop terrorism around the world.

Top photo: mosaic of the faces of 9/11 victims

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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