Some say the events of 9/11/2001 shaped America in the 21st century -- and even the world. I can't say those people are wrong. What I do know is that, looking back on that day 11 years ago, I was a different person. And, I realized later, a very lucky one.
I learned about the planes striking the Twin Towers when my sister-in-law called. I was hard at work on a proposal to write a course about Windows XP. When she told me, I thought she was pulling my leg. But then I went up on the Internet and saw the footage of the first strike. She wanted me to go up and be with my mother-in-law because she didn't want her to be alone when she heard the news -- my father-in-law was still alive, but was out in the woods. Instead, I sent John up to tell his mother and I called my mother.
We live in Missouri and my Mom lived in California. When I called her, she had just woken up and hadn't heard. I remember sitting on my back porch, looking out into the peaceful woods, and telling her. "Mom, we're going to war."
She said, "What do you mean?"
I said, "We've been attacked. How can we not go to war?" Now, I was a pacifist -- I still am. But I couldn't imagine any other response to an attack on American soil.
She asked, "Attacked? By who?" Although my mother had lived through more wars than I had, she had only been a young child the last time America was attacked.
"They're not saying. But I think it was Osama Bin Laden." How did I know that? I didn't. I had just read an article about Muslim extremists and Bin Laden. It had stuck in my head.
We talked for awhile...I talked to a lot of people that day. Friends, family, even a Pakistani coworker because I was worried about how people would treat him. He was a person just like me...regardless of his religious beliefs or where he was from.
The eeriest thing I remember was the next day. The day of silence. My brother-in-law and I drove to St. Louis to present our proposal for the Windows XP course. On a typical day, a number of planes fly overhead. You never notice them. That day I noticed the lack of them.
We didn't get that project and money was tight that fall. But sometimes projects fall through for a reason. Another project had fallen through during the summer -- a project that would have put me at JP Morgan on 9/11/2001.