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This changes everything

Headline Photo

Illustration by Josh Hagler

By Zack Armstrong

Wednesday September 12, 2001

So. I was planning on writing a column about the release of Bob Dylan's latest album. It came out yesterday, in my final semester of college, while his previous album came out in my very first semester. I was going to sum up my college experience using these two releases as bookends and catalysts for events in my college life. My editor, however, usually likes it when my columns are about something in the news so, I decided to get up early yesterday and see if the news offered anything worth writing about. Unfortunately it did:

Sept. 11 -Iin a horrific sequence of destruction, two hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City within minutes of each other, causing both to collapse in what President Bush called a terrorist attack. In Washington, a plane crashed into the Pentagon, causing part of the building to collapse.

This changes everything.

How could I possibly write about anything else? But at the same time∑ how can I write about this? It's something that's in everyone's thoughts, rendering all other news inconsequential; yet, what is there to say?

It's a tragedy. That's a start, but everyone already knows that. So what else is there to say?

Say what you feel.

I imagine that I'm like everyone else in that, I don't really know what I'm feeling right now or what I'm supposed to be feeling. It keeps changing. Sometimes I'm overcome with grief. Watching the suffering on the news and realizing just how many people were there. All those people. Gone.

I was in the library early yesterday where they had set up a television in the lobby to watch the news. A large group had gathered, unable to pull their eyes away from clip after clip of people in sheer terror and agony. One girl was crying while many others, myself included, were fighting the temptation to join her. But despite this, for some reason, there is something inside us that needs to see it.

We need to see the people on stretchers with bandages, soaked in blood, covering their heads. We need to see the people jumping from skyscrapers to escape whatever chaos existed within. And we need to see the thousands of people fleeing the scene of destruction as its ash rains around them as though assuring them that they could not run fast enough and would never escape. They were trying to get away but were unable to resist the temptation to look back at the devastation.

Sometimes I'm overcome with anger. I want to know that the people responsible for this are going to suffer, slowly and painfully. I want their heads on spikes, sent to the four corners of this nation and put on display as a warning, while their bodies are fed to wild hogs to be shat up and eaten again.

I am staggeringly embarrassed to admit it, but I was walking through campus and I saw a fellow student of Middle Eastern descent and, suddenly and without warning, I became angry and directed it at him. It only took me a moment, thankfully, to realize what a complete ass I was being, but it still happened. It was involuntary, yes, but it still happened, and it was horrible, and I am so ashamed. This brings me to fear.

Sometimes I am overcome with fear. My fear led to that anger. Mostly it's a fear of the unknown. How could this happen? What does it all mean? What's going to happen? If they can do this, what else can they do? How will we respond? How do we retaliate? Revenge? War? How do we give the people responsible for this what they deserve without sinking to their level? And most obviously, why? Why?

I fear the answers to all of these questions, but mostly the last one. It is impossible for me to comprehend the rationale employed by those responsible that justifies even the thoughts of their actions. The extensive planning and organization that this operation must have involved potentially hundreds of people that all thought it was a good idea - and that is terrifying.

I feel like there is so much more to be said. But right now, I don't know what it is. The implications and consequences of this event will be monumental, but there is no way to guess what all of them may be. I wish I could have written about Dylan instead. I would have had a lot more to say about him.


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