By Sean Breslin
I was in
the television. Every once in a while one of us would posit something, guess at who was
behind the attacks, what country we would be going to war with, hoping people we knew
back East were all right. But mostly, we watched in silence as tragedy after
tragedy played out on the cable news networks.
My sister's campus effectively shut down on for a few days, so we had time to visit with
one another. We went on a hike, had lunch with our mother, bought CDs at a local
music store. But all we could talk about was the attacks, and soon we'd exhausted our
energies thinking about it. I had planned to stay for a week, but left on Thursday, Sept.
13, already working on a new route through
see as much as possible of the country I called home, the place that had just been so
Early Friday morning, I reached
terrorism better than any other place in the country. The city, reaching out to New
York and Washington, had organized a public moment of silence at the site of the
I had brought dozens of CDs along to keep me entertained on the road, but
NPR wherever I could ﬁnd a signal. I kept hearing the name of a small town in
atlas, found the tiny dot southeast of
sure what Iʼd ﬁnd there.
Though the details of the passengersʼ ﬁght against the terrorists had not yet emerged,
there was already a consensus that theyʼd stopped the plane from reaching some
undetermined target and prevented the killing of more civilians. I drove down narrow farm roads pocked with potholes until I reached a roadblock, guarded by a severe-looking man wearing a dark suit and sunglasses. As I stood by the roadblock, a steady stream of people made a pilgrimage to the crash site, leaving ﬂowers and ﬂags, ribbons and teddy bears as a tribute to the passengersʼ bravery. I stayed for maybe an hour before driving the last six hours home.
way to the western plains and to see the
day I realized Iʼd be seeing an entirely different landscape, a cultural and political
landscape that was shifting in ways we could not yet understand.
The trip helped me focus my curiosity about the world around me. Along my route, I
saw countless people trying to make sense of what happened, devouring every bit of
information as soon as they could get it. That trip planted in me the desire to help
people understand the events that shape our lives. Years later, when I went back to
school and had to pick a major, I chose journalism.
I canʼt pretend that Sept. 11 affected me the same way it affected those who lost loved
ones in the attacks, or those who went off to war to dismantle Al Qaida. But it did help
me to recognize that the world is bigger than me, bigger than the things I think are important at any given moment. Because in any given moment, everything can be changed forever, for everyone.