By Tony Hooker
With a special thank you to Alan Jackson, this week I’m reflecting on that horrible day, 20 years ago.
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children?
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
I was in my office in admissions and records at the UIUC campus when word of a terrible accident began to filter in. It wasn’t until the second plane hit that we knew that it was no accident.
Did you stand there in shock?
At the sight of that black smoke
Risin’ against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger?
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?
I remember all three emotions at different times. At first, I was just shocked at the presence of such evil. I wanted to rush home, grab my kids from school and hug them in the living room and have a good cry at the senseless loss of life. And then, as I am wont to do when attacked, I got angry. Very angry.
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?
I must give a huge shout out to my supervisor at the time, Barb Wood. She immediately understood the gravity of the situation, and that there were many students on the UI campus who might be held accountable for the actions of the terrorist scum who did this vile act. She rallied us almost immediately to take care of our constituency, our students. It’s what we in student services always do.
Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened?
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages?
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
For the first time in years, I re-gained an appreciation of how great my life really is. I have a beautiful wife, four awesome kids and a fulfilling job that allows me to help others and keeps us living comfortably. Over time, of course, these thoughts of true gratitude faded…until COVID-19 struck. And then, during the pandemic, I was reminded of just how blessed I am.
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow?
Go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you’re watchin’?
And turn on “I Love Lucy” reruns?
Perhaps my memory has been tarnished by the passage of two decades, but I remember a certain sentimentality settling over most all of us. For a brief time, we were all simply Americans, without regard to hyphens or the amount of melanin in our skin, or any other factor. It is my fervent wish that we can get back that feeling of unity, if not in my lifetime, then at least in the lifetime of my children or their children. I only pray that it doesn’t take another 9/11 to get us there. May the memory of all those who lost their lives as victims and first responders on that tragic day never fade.