Remembering 9/11 Before '9/11'

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So here we are 20 years later. I saw someone ask a...
couple days what was your most mundane memory from 9/11. I realized I don't have any mundane memories from that day. This isn't to say my day was especially traumatic, especially compared to so many others. I wake up to the TV I had left on to CNN the night before (I was single at the time) and see the first tower on fire and trying to make sense of it. Not in some deep existential sense – I was half asleep. What am I seeing? Then the second tower gets hit. (I'm still not certain if I saw the second tower hit live or a replay from a few moments earlier. I think it was the former but it's all a jumble.) Then I'm talking to my then girlfriend in her office on Capitol Hill on instant messenger who's telling me 'we're next, we're next'. Then they get a call to evacuate. My most jarring memory from that day was seeing military vehicles on the streets of Washington, DC, something that seemed simply unimaginable. I don't remember what kind precisely, some kind of APC, I think. Not being moved from one place to another but on patrol.

In some ways that was the most jarring thing for me. After getting my initial bearings I went outside to make sense of what was happening to report on it. I was still trying to make sense of what any of it meant. I had literally just rolled out of bed, remember. Seeing military vehicles patrolling the streets of the American capital. I understood deeply and intuitively that that meant something terrible and unimaginable had happened.

In the twenty intervening years I've become mostly accustomed to seeing national guard troops in fatigues carrying automatic weapons in train stations. If you're old enough to remember, this was simply unimaginable before 9/11.

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