Four years ago, life as we knew it changed. As a member of the class of 9/11, I can vividly remember the preparations I was making for my freshman year at Dartmouth and the Outing Club Trip which was to introduce me to campus. I had packed my bags and made all the necessary preparations for my departure when on a clear September morning the world shook.
I was schedule to meet a very good buddy from high school at Denny’s early that morning for breakfast when I received word at a gas station en route that a plane had hit the first tower. While listening to the radio on my drive over to Denny’s I learned of the second plane and the coordinated terrorist attack. My mind did not quite process the attack. Nor did I realize its implications for the United States and the World. I only knew that many people were in danger and many lives were surely lost.
When Chris arrived at Denny’s, late as usual, we decided to forgo our final breakfast and watch as history unfurled at his home on the east side of Lawton. By the time we clicked on the TV, we were just in time to watch the towers fall. We saw the smoke billowing in the distance of the cameras and witnessed, like so many Americans, the teary, stunned expression of New Yorkers filing out of downtown Manhattan. Later we heard about bombings at the Pentagon, which turned out to be American Airlines Flight 77 and we learned of the evacuation of the United States Capitol.
I left Chris’s house that morning in disbelief. It was difficult to fathom the fall of such large structures in such a densely populated area. We said prayers for the victims. We prayed for justice.
My departure to Dartmouth was resultantly made with great stress and much worry. I was stressed knowing that I would not be able to participate on my college outing trip as insignificant as it seemed, and I was worried for my life and the fear of another terrorist attack. Even so, I mustered some bravery and left the first day the airports opened. I arrived in the dead of night to the chill of a New Hampshire September. I had only the vague notion of what college entailed. I had no conception of how the institution of Dartmouth College would affect my life. And I had no idea what was in store for me during my four years there.
I was forever introduced to Dartmouth in a vastly different way than most students were. I arrived numb and this numbness set the tenor for much of my college career. I never took the DOC trip I missed. I never hiked the mountains of New Hampshire while I was there. Instead, my journey to Dartmouth began in the ashes of the World Trade Center and it ended on a similarly radiant morning in June of this year.
Looking back, so much of life has changed in these four years. Even as I have grown old and changed so too has our Nation, her citizens, and our culture. September 11, 2001 rocked the paradigm of academia. It altered the course of history. It influenced film and music. It radically changed the world political climate, setting a deep division between Western Civilization and its Muslim counterpart in the east. In many ways, 9/11 set a new standard of difficulty for the world and its future survival. It has pitted the forces of freedom loving people against those tired vestiges of fundamentalism and theocratic rule.
In all of these forces, change is the only constant. Yet, we Americans are a resilient people. If there is one thing Americans do well it is change. We change jobs. We relocate. We move our families where opportunity is greatest. We build. We re-build. We change our living habits. We change churches. We re-examine our values. Indeed, we have embraced change from the very inception of our country. We left the comfort of a well developed Europe for the unknown, Great, and New World. We take risks. We seek challenge. To say the very least we are gutsy.
Americans can adapt to change because we are a people of change. And we are all the stronger for it. Though the terrorists sought to deal a blow to the American Spirit, we have responded with strength, determination and vigor and the state of our Union is strong.
May God bless the families who are suffering today from painful memories—memories far more painful than my trivial introduction to college.
And, most of all, may God continue to watch over our blessed Land.