On September 11, 2001 I was 12-years old. The same age [ironically] of many of the fundamentalist muslim child brides in the middle east. I was had just "graduated" from grade school at Ayer Elementary School and was beginning my education as a 7th grader at Nagel Middle School.
The day started out so ordinary as to be unnerving.
Most of my memory of my childhood is foggy... but this day... I shall never forget. I can see it as clearly now [nearly a decade later] as I could then. And the sky was blue and sunny... as usual nature was completely oblivious and uncaring to the horror about to take place.
I was supposed to be at school at 07:20 [7:20 AM] for homeroom... but as I hated getting up in the morning... I was glad that today I was going for my annual health check at the local pediatrician office. However... I was unhappy that the appointment started at 08:00. [I have always hated getting up in the morning] and I was complaining in the typical "late childhood" way about how "stupid this was" and "it's too early" and "blah! blah! blah!" My mother was driving me to the doctor... and took her usual care to ignore my whiny stupidity.
The doctor's appointment went well... and as we left my mother turned on the radio. I was continuing to whine... but she suddenly "Shushed" me around 09:00 and I heard the strange news report that would soon change my life. At the time however I couldn't understand why Mom looked so tense upon hearing it.
So a plane crashed into a building? Big deal! [I had no idea of the magnitude of this and was assuming it was an accident that would soon blow over and the building would be repaired.]
It was when I got to school 15 minutes later that things started getting really strange. The middle school rumor mill was on high alert that morning and everywhere I looked in the hall, kids were gathered in small circles of 3 - 7 people and whispering intensely. Several friends [who would decided within the next year that they were too cool to hang out with me] told me that their parents were coming to take them home because it wasn't safe.
I was dumbfounded.... school wasn't safe? All kinds of strange things were flying around... the teachers looked tense and student were speaking gravely about rumors from as normal as "someone accidently crashed into a building" to as frightening as "Our country just got into a war."
But until I got home at 15:00 [3 pm] I really had no idea what was going on. At least until I turned the corner and my parents had turned on the news where they were running playbacks of the morning's events.
Until then I had no fathoming of how horrible what had happened was.
What I saw on that screen made me question whether I was truly awake... or more likely... having a nightmare.
A fireball exploded out of the side of a tall skyscraper to the screams of people below... and only a few clips later [unbelievably] the same thing happened to a similar looking building right next to it. And then... the unimaginable...
A structure that I had thought as unbreakable as my Christian faith [I was a devout little girl] came tumbling down in a cloud of dust in less than 30 seconds. The smoke billowed through the streets after screaming people who were running for their lives... and engulfed the unlucky ones who weren't fast enough in an airborne darkness... from which they didn't emerge.
Was this real? Wasn't this just some horrible joke? A Hollywood movie clip? A child's bedtime nightmare? This was worse than all the monsters I had imagined lurking in my dark bedroom as I went to sleep at night... only a few years earlier. This was unimaginable. I was struck dumb. I found myself unable to speak, move, or tear my eyes away from that unforgettable sight.
In that moment... my childhood innocence... my thought of the U.S. as a near-perfect society that no sane person would dare mess with... was shattered forever. I was 12... and my mind was forced to begin the process of growing up in an instant.
It took many years before I would eventually grow up as an intellectual... but the pace was surprisingly rapid considering the depth of my indoctrination. In 8 years I went from pious little christian conservative... to flaming liberal antitheist.
Did 9/11 spurr this? Would I have ever questioned if I had not seen what I did that day?
Was it spurred by the following days and weeks when the news showed more unimaginable images of people of the Muslim faith [A faith I had never heard of] as the perpetrators of the crime that killed over 3000 people. Everyone was calling them "terrorists." [I had never heard of that either].
Was it the horrible footage of devout arab muslims burning American flags and shrieking "Allahu Akbar" ["God is Great"] in their perverted celebrations of the murder of innocent people. What was going on here?! Why did people hate us this much? And... while on the subject... where WAS God? Why hadn't he protected his good Christian people from their enemies... like he promised? "Blessed are you that weep now... for you shall laugh." - Why were the ones who hated us laughing then while we were trying to deal with it?
"Blessed are you that are persecuted because of me... for yours is the kingdom of Heaven." I surely didn't feel blessed... and if this was heaven.. I didn't want to be there.
While the shrieking muslims in the middle east were celebrating like the children in "Lord of the Flies" who danced around the rotting, maggot-infested pig's head on a stick and offering the skeptical Ralph as a blood sacrifice... my 12 year old form could only quiver and sob and cry out to God in a similar way to Jesus as he died on the cross "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?!" [My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me [us]?!]
I never recieved an answer... and supposedly... neither did Jesus.
But looking back while watching the History Channel's Documentary "The 9/11 Commission Report" I couldn't help but feel grief for my lost childhood innocence, and wonder if this event triggered the doubt that led to my deconversion.
I will post the documentary in the video section of this website.
But as I am now reading Hitchen's "God is Not Great" and Chapter 13 asks "Does Religion Make People Behave?" I would have to agree with Hitchens... it does not! Good things done by religious people are done by an internal moral compass [one that any secular person has as well]... evil things... like 9/11 are done... often... of explicitly religious reasons. And what is worse is that the religious person is blind to their own evil.