On September 11, 2001, I was just beginning my freshman year at the University of Tennessee. My roommate received a call that woke us both. His girlfriend informed us the Pentagon had been attacked and a plane had flown into a tower in New York City. Both of us stood in front of the television for the next few hours and watched the towers fall. I just remember thinking, "There are people in there........right?"
UT didn't cancel classes, so I went to my English 101 class, and we all just sat there and starred at each other. The instructor declined to teach and asked if anyone wanted to share anything. I went back to my dorm and watched the news over and over again in the lobby with three or four hundred other freshmen. One student received a phone call and burst into tears. I heard someone close to her may have been in one of the towers. I went back up to my room and cried in front of the television.
9/11 traumatized the nation. A friend of mine living in Alabama confided in me that she had reoccurring dreams about the last moments of those who died. I remember watching people in Chicago, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, and Atlanta hold candle light vigils for the victims and their families. Even my tough-guy, football player friends admitted they shed tears on September 11th.
Today, for the first time since the event happened, I was reminded of the raw emotion that flowed through me in 2001. I went down to Ground Zero and listened to the names read. I talked to New Yorkers who were here that day and listened to their stories. I saw posters of FDNY and NYPD officers who lost their lives that day. It was one of the most emotional days I've had in a long time. No surprise, a September 11 anniversary in New York City is a little more heart-wrenching than in other parts of the country.
Since 9/11, I'm afraid far too many people have used September 11 for their own political gain. Rudy Guiliani made it the centerpiece of his presidential bid. PETA was recently criticized for attempting to advertise at Ground Zero. And the far right has been using it recently to encourage Islamophobia in order to regain political power.
What I was reminded of today is just how outrageously inappropriate this kind of behavior is. Ground Zero truly is hallowed ground for so many Americans who lost loved ones on that tragic day, and its memory deserves to be treated with the same solemn respect one would show in any church, mosque, synagogue, or temple.
So when Colby King used it as a means engaging readers' emotions in his op-ed today in the WaPo calling for Michelle Rhee to leave office, I found it distasteful. While I agree Rhee's departure would be positive, I found his reference to the DCPS teachers and students who lost their lives on 9/11 neither flowed well with the rest of his piece nor honored their memory. Instead, he used them to advance a message that is, above all else, political in nature. I, for one, could have done without that.