By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — I always resented what seemed like immediate parlor games of everyone sharing – usually on social threads – their boring yarns about how they were in the middle of this, that or the other thing when they heard about what was the worst attack on American soil.
Doing so 2-3 years after Sept. 11, 2001 — especially when the act led to a disingenuous rationale for a war in Iraq that quickly revealed itself as coming from Page 1 of the Vietnam playbook made these personal remembrances seem trivial.
I had what I thought was a more pertinent question: Where are you now?
This past week, we commemorated 18 years since 9/11.
And Sofia is old enough – and intrigued by events that occurred more than five minutes ago – to share our own experiences, just like my father did with me about the JFK assassination (Oswald didn’t act alone, if at all, but that’s another column for another day) and the Japanese army (they acted alone) bombing Pearl Harbor.
I don’t know what makes me the final arbiter of when it is time to suddenly change lanes on the discussion. I just felt like it was too soon before and not so much now.
Where was I that day? I was just getting out of the shower in the Center City apartment I shared with my future wife (then fiancé). She worked in Wilmington at the time, and called with the news of a plane striking one of the twin towers. I had the TV on, but was pre-conditioned not to get too involved with the trivialities of Good Morning America, when it was clear something else was going on.
First reaction? It was terrorism, clearly, but it could be passed off as some sort of accident from air traffic control to avoid public panic (just like blaming the JFK assassination on a lone nut). But, after the second plane hit, which I watched as it happened, it was clear was going on. The whole nation could be under attack.
As the crime-beat reporter for The Times Herald, I drove into work that day while many others were scrambling to make it home from their jobs.
For all I knew, the nation could have been under total assault and this was only the start of it. But, like many Americans, I defined myself by my job back in those pre-Sofia years.
I was told by the editor at the time that I was a free agent, meaning stops at police stations to comb through blotter were out. The rest of it is a blur. I believe I had four or five bylines in the Sept. 12 edition, although I only recall two – from a bomb scare called into the Plymouth Township Community Center and from talking to congregants who came to pray at one of the historically black churches in Norristown.
I remember the sense of unity between a lot of scared people of all walks of life. While I was not a fan of the president who I thought stole the election, I felt he then had the nation in the palm of his hand.
Who knew how much he would blow it?
Eighteen years later, we are more divided than ever.
A new psychology emerged – a sort of acceptable narcissism — wherein we were inundated with a spate of reality television.
And the ultimate sociopath, who seemed to find a resting spot on reality TV after failing as a mogul, was elected as president.
The real patriotism we all felt in the aftermath of Sept. 11 has been subverted and perverted into a game of who is more patriotic than who, based on superficialities.
Mass shootings are now so commonplace that we aren’t even phased by them anymore.
Children drink water with lead in it, and we shrug it off.
Eighteen years later, that’s where we are.
Maybe that’s why it suddenly seems better to remember where we were, and get back to that place of temporary unity amid fear and chaos.
This column ran in The Times Herald on Sept. 15, 2019.