It’s a week since we marked the anniversary. Nine years later, it continues to boggle my mind how much 9/11 changed our standards for everything.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was studying abroad in Ghana when it happened. I heard the news in the middle of the day, not the morning, and I watched the towers fall on a small screen TV in the first-floor computer lab of the Legon Hall Annex A dormitories — multistory cement shells with infrequent running water — with a lot of Ghanaian students (obviously) and the type of American kids who would sign up to study abroad in Ghana (use your imagination, or extrapolate from what you know of me). Not the same atmosphere in which many in America became aware of the attacks.
Maybe it’s because I was 20 years old when it happened, and on the cusp of entering a sort of adult awareness.
Or maybe it’s because I had only been to New York twice in my life — once when I was born, and once when I was ten years old, where my most vivid memory is getting my Bulls cap (perched stylishly on my head a la BBD) snatched off my head by a thief on a bicycle.
Also, I didn’t lose anyone in the attacks, or know anyone (at the time) who did.
Whatever the reasons, I experienced the attacks differently from many in the United States. And probably because of that, the changes upon my return to the United States were nearly as shocking as the event of 9/11 itself. Recovering from a month of malaria and sinus infections, I stumbled through an LAX landscape stolen from a sci-fi movie, a place apparently under siege. I couldn’t get over the fact that there were Marines with automatic weapons patrolling the halls. I was astounded that I was reprimanded at security for not taking the snotty tissues out of my pocket at the metal detector, as I entered the domestic terminal to transfer to a flight to San Francisco.