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A Thousand Miles Away – Remembering 9/11

It was just weeks into my freshman year of college in North Newton, Kansas. Eighteen years old. On the cusp of adulthood, I was brash, proud, and naïve.

I had no idea – none of us did – what that day would become. It seemed like any other. Bright. Fresh. Full of the hope and trembling of early fall in freshman year.

I remember the empty sky over Kansas. Pale blue, lightly brushed by cirrus clouds. How could it be so normal here? A thousand miles away.

For my part, I felt safe. No one would fly airplanes into my dorm. Might as well be in another country.

Many were scared, though. The towers were still burning when people began rushing to their cars. Rumors that there might be a shortage of gasoline. Though we would ask the question again and again in the following months, deep down we already knew why they hated us.

I remember my own fear, not of the terrorists, but of the president. Oh, God – will he start a nuclear war? Even more unpredictable and dangerous than a wounded animal: A wounded empire.

It all felt so surreal. It’s like a movie.

I remember the burning. Instant replays of an airliner knifing into the second tower. The smoke rising slowly above the famed New York City horizon. Woe, the great city.

I remember office documents taking flight, like butterflies dancing around the rigid towers. Life escaping the filing cabinet.

And then, seeing human beings jumping. Knowing real people were inside those burning, metallic shells. This touched the heart of even an oblivious, arrogant teenager like me. A thousand miles away.