It was my birthday, I lived in Maryland at the time, between Baltimore and DC, I worked at a pediatric office in Baltimore, I had just gotten into work and was talking to the mother of a sick patient on the phone when she heard on the radio what had happened. I wasn't quite sure what she was talking about, she said said she'd call back. We hung up, the phone rang, it was my significant other, he said, "happy birthday, turn on the radio". So we did, like many other people, we listened to the radio all day, almost none of our patients showed up for their appointments. We had a few muslim families and I remember being very worried about their safety in the wake of everything that was happening, the accusations that were flying around, and the anger and rage that people were feeling.
The doctor sent me home early because I commuted by bus and he knew it was going to be a long trip. What we didn't know was that downtown Baltimore had been completely shut down and the MTA had closed, leaving their driver's out on the road with no instructions about where to drop people off or pick people up (all of the mass transit hubs were downtown). So our driver veered off the regular route, stopped at some dead end street and said, "last stop, everyone off". I had no clue where we were, and the streets were deserted. I wandered around for a while, trying to recognize landmarks and hoping another bus would come along (I didn't own a cell phone back then). At one point, the only other person I saw on the street was a police officer in full riot geer wielding an automatic rifle, and looking really edgy, I quickly turned around and walked the opposite direction, I was afraid to ask him for help. Most of the bus drivers wouldn't stop to pick anyone up, I guess they wanted to get home too, eventually I waved one down and I managed to get close enough to home and a pay phone to call someone to come pick me up. It was a late night, after a terrifying day. We watched the news almost all night, I don't think we slept. I remember for days afterwards mass transit was still screwed up because they kept the downtown area closed off. Parent's didn't bring their kids in for appointments because they were afraid to leave the house. People were scared of almost everything, especially in that area. I heard that Baltimore had a number of structures that were considered likely targets including an extension office of the world trade center (though I never verified that so I don't know if it's true or not). And being pinned right between NYC and DC people were afraid of nuclear and biological attacks. It all contributed to the fear and hysteria following September 11th.
I think that for a long time Americans felt safe from the troubles that plagued the rest of the world, and September 11th forced us to come to terms with the fact that that's not true, that we are also vulnerable. It's such a 180 for us and I think that's part of why, five years later, we're still struggling with it.
I still get a wide range of reactions when I have to show my ID to people or tell them my birth date. At the best, I just get a funny look, or, "oh man, that sucks", other people look sad and say stuff, like, "oh you poor thing", other people give me nasty look and tell me that it should be a national day of morning and that nothing should be celebrated on that day. I can't really say that I agree with that last one. Obviously the attacks on New York and Washington should not be forgotten, but I think that we need to go on living. And I think that some of the more extreme attention that is given to this date feeds right into what terrorist organizations and people who hate Americans, want to see, that we are paralyzed with fear, and that we value American lives far above the tens of thousand of people who have died from war and terrorism all over the world in the past few years. It's going on every where, and people are dying in even greater numbers in the middle east and africa, but we're still so focused on ourselves. I am in favor of memorials and tastefull rememberances for those who died, but I am sickened by the media, politicians and other factions of our society who evoke the memories of September 11th for their own gain when we should be focusing on the future and making the world a better, safer place, not a scarier place.
Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now. I really wasn't expecting to write something quite that long or opinionated, I guess I just had it all bottled up inside. I hope I didn't offend anyone, that certainly was not my intention.