18 years later and it feels like yesterday.

Walking into AP French, and hearing that a plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City. CNN’s website crashing. Hearing “Taliban” and “Osama bin Laden” for the first time and not knowing what they meant, just that it was bad. Hearing the Pentagon was hit, and worrying about my aunt, who just started working there, not sure if she was safe or not. Worrying there would be another attack in Chicago. Knowing life had completely changed.

Things were different then. There was no animosity. Everyone knew their neighbours. We looked out for each other. We swore we would never forget what happened. We swore we would stand united as a country. There were no political parties or agendas. How times are different now.

18 years ago today two planes were flown into the World Trade Center, one plane hit the Pentagon, and a fourth plane that was headed for the White House was brought down in a field in Pennsylvania by its passengers who believed in the freedoms and liberty that America stood for back then. There was such an incredible loss of life that day, between the civilians on the planes and in the offices where the planes hit to the first responders who ran into the burning buildings to save as many people as they possibly could. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten…or at least that’s what we, as a country, said 18 years ago.

When you look at our country today, you would never guess that 18 years ago we were united, we forgot our differences, we believed in what the USA stood for. Now, we are a nation focused on security, worrying about our neighbours, afraid to speak up for fear of going on some government watch list. We don’t worry about our homes being wiretapped anymore, we have invited the “wiretaps” into our homes in the form of Alexa and Siri. We have smartphones, smartwatches, and fitbits that track where we are at all times; our lives are up in the cloud, easily accessible at any time. We have more restrictions on our lives than ever before, all because of the actions of a few terrorists back in 2001.

I remember a time before this security state we live in. The summer of 2001, I flew, alone, to Belgium to stay with my cousins for a month and work on my French fluency. My parents parked at O’Hare and walked with me to the gate. We sat there for an hour or so until it was time for me to board. They were waiting for me at Customs when I arrived. I could bring my own food and drink (in any number of ounces I wanted) with me to the airport and on the plane. I did not have to take off my shoes or belt to go through a body scanner. Heck, there was no Department of Homeland Security. There was no Patriot Act. You did not have to leave extra early to get to the airport to work around the security line back then, unlike today.

It was a simpler time, where you knew who lived next door to you, and down the street, and around the corner. It was a time for block parties, and kids running around and riding their bikes around for hours without parents freaking out and worrying where they were and when they would be home. You did not hear about the endless wars on every newscast. ISIS and Taliban were unknown words. Did you really know the difference between Iraq and Iran?

2019 marks the year I have lived longer in the post-9/11 era than I did before that fateful September day. It was supposed to be the Pearl Harbor, or Kennedy assassination for my generation, but it seems that we have forgotten what happened. We are not a strong and united country anymore. We take a brief moment each year to “remember” the worst terrorist attack on American soil and go back to tearing each other down. What have we really learned?

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