Today on September 10th as I explain to my seven year old daughter for the first time why there are flags flying everywhere this weekend, I’m thinking about the day before 9/11.
In the beginning of September of 2001, I was a newlywed, just back from a honeymoon in St. Lucia and living in Silver Spring, Maryland, in an apartment on the DC/Maryland line. My husband worked for the federal government as a policy analyst, and I was beginning my first year teaching English and reading at a public middle school in Montgomery County, Maryland. The most important concerns in my life were getting used to answering to Mrs. Bair, navigating being a teacher on a cart instead of a set classroom, and learning the names of 130 students. It was my first year teaching in the public school system, so suddenly I was setting up a retirement account and signing my new husband and myself up for health insurance. How could life ever be more complicated than this maze of W-2’s and 403(b)’s? I was twenty-three, full of hope and energy, teaching the subject I loved during the day and spending evenings figuring out married life. I was just learning what it meant to be an adult.
It was the last day that I could hear jets from Andrews Air Force base flying drills over my home without panicking and turning on the news.
It was the last day that I could see “Breaking News” on the television screen and not immediately think of my husband in DC.
It was the last day that I could ride the Metro worry-free.
It was the last day that a loud sound, an earthquake, a car accident, a strange roll of thunder didn’t register first as “bomb.”
It was the last day that I could board a plane without looking suspiciously at the people around me.
It was the last day that terrorism was someone else’s problem. Another country. Another state. Another city.
It was the last day that we all spent with the version of normal we had been living for so long.
Yes, in many ways these things have gotten easier over the last ten years. But the truth is, there is no going back to the way life was on September 10, 2001.