Poyer: Let’s talk living in the aftermath of 9/11

Columnist Sarah Poyer reflects on the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. Poyer took the photo above at the 9/11 Museum in New York City. 

Sarah Poyer

Editor’s Note: This piece is a part of the series “Let’s talk.”

Sep. 11, 2001 is an infamous day for a very tragic reason. I, of course, do not remember this day, as I was just shy of seven months old when it occurred. Yet, I feel a sorrow deep in my soul on this day every year. 

The day the Twin Towers fell, America changed in many ways. Talking with my parents, grandparents and older brother, a changed world emerged for the American people on Sep. 12, 2001. An innocence had been stolen that we could never recover and still, 20 years later, have not recovered, yet have tried to move past. 

I know where my mom was when the towers fell. She was watching me at home, probably taking a nap with her almost-seven month old. I know she was watching the news and watched the horror unfold before her eyes. My mom had at the time been commuting to New York City for work; she had seen the towers many times. New York was a second home for her; she had friends there and in an instant, their lives were completely altered. She was forced to watch horror unfolding while sitting at home with this new bundle of joy she had only a few months prior. 

Up until this past weekend, I had no idea where my dad was when the towers fell. The story he told me was so interesting in many ways. He was at work at Rockwell, sitting at his desk, likely writing an email when they were told the first tower had just been hit. My dad remembers he and his fellow coworkers going to the media center and watching this horrible event wreak havoc on their nation and their livelihood of aviation. He described it best to me when he said “America had our innocence stolen.” This innocence my generation and those below me have never seen. 

My junior year of high school, my wonderful parents took me to New York City. We visited Ground Zero. The sick-to-my-stomach feeling I got in that museum I can never describe to anyone. Watching footage of people for what was the last minute of their lives for some is so haunting, and hearing family members speak of their loved ones stings deep. Seeing the names carved into the reflecting pool outside is such a somber experience, names of people who should have experienced more life than they did, who should have still been here. I remember just sobbing at the stories and videos, the horror they could not escape from so evident. 

I have spent time discussing 9/11 with my parents. Listening to their perspective on how they saw a change in the world. Like I said earlier, my mom commuted to New York City for work: she described to me showing up to the airport a half hour before her flight took off. Security was nothing like it is for us nowadays. My dad shares similar sentiments of walking up to the gate to watch people take off for flights. Now, we show up two hours early to flights and are forced through a long line of TSA. I know the point is to protect us, and it is understandable. I just wish our country’s innocence could have been saved. 

As I sit here in the aftermath of 9/11, twenty years later I have many thoughts and emotions jumbled inside my head. What would we be like had our innocence been spared? Who would the people be if they were still here today? As we live in this aftermath of safety and protection, we are missing a stolen innocence that cannot be replaced.