Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Like a Pro: Ten Years

This is my first TNH column of the year. When I woke up last Sunday, I just started writing it without even knowing what I was going to say. It just spilled out. I already wrote the posted the main idea of it Sunday morning, but this is the full version. I hope you take something from it, because I know I got a lot from writing it. 

There are a handful of days, moments really, that I will never forget.
I will never forget when my friends and I got sent to the principal's office in first grade for being too rough at recess. I will never forget certain sporting events I've watched or attended. I'll never forget special moments with my parents and grandparents, my brother's wedding, or the first time I held my niece. But there are three moments in my life that have forever changed me and everyone I know – both in the way we think and the way we live.

The first of those moments was September 11, 2001. Ten years ago.

It was fourth period – social studies – and I was in the sixth grade. The teachers decided to tell us about the attacks on the World Trade Center about an hour after it happened. I had never had to think about things outside my own bubble before, but that changed when I saw my teacher frantically making phone calls as we entered the room. Her sister was a flight attendant who was safely grounded in Texas.
My teacher brought up CNN.com and showed us pictures of what had happened. We couldn't even begin to comprehend the situation, why would someone crash a plane into a building? There is one thing that is clear about that day. Whether you are a conservative or liberal, a gun-slinger or a peace-loving hippie, a Christian, a Muslim or an atheist, your life dramatically changed that day.

In ways we don't even realize, or want to realize, our lives have changed. Whether you knew someone involved or not your world had shifted. That day impacted me in more ways than I imagined it could have when I first heard the news and in ways I am still discovering 10 years later.

The second moment that I will never forget was the morning of my 13th birthday in 2003. I came downstairs and my parents were watching the news and drinking their morning coffee. It was nothing out of the usual, but something felt different.

I looked at the TV and saw that the United States had begun bombing Iraq and "Operation Iraqi Freedom," which was the "liberty cabbage" way of saying that we were at war. It was the first time in my life where I was old enough to remember or reflect on, my country was at war. As the days passed, the war progressed. Months and years went by and the war had spread. As Hunter S. Thompson so accurately put it on September 12th, 2001, “We are At War now -- with somebody -- and we will stay at War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives… We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once.” Ten years later and he could not have been more correct.

The third moment that I'll never forget came on an August afternoon in 2010. I had been working that morning and when I got home I opened up my Twitter feed. There was a tweet from WMUR that said a Kensington, New Hampshire Army Ranger was killed in Afghanistan. I had grown up in Kensington; it is a stereotypical small New Hampshire town growing from farms to big developments where everyone knew everyone, especially when I was younger.

I feared the worst and when I clicked the link I saw a familiar face. He had been on my brother's little league team years before and our moms knew each other quite well. It was the first time, and hopefully the only time, that someone I knew died in war. I had friends who knew him much better than I did, but it still hit me hard. It changed my views and made me question certain things.

But one thing is for certain, for as long as America is at war I will always support the troops, no matter what reasons for war our government gives us.

I know this is being distributed a few days later, but when I woke up Sunday morning and began writing this, not even with the initial intention of it being a column, I couldn't get a quote out of my head. It actually comes from rapper Talib Kweli: "Stand tall or don't stand at all."

Stay classy, not UMassy.

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