The “Today” show was on as I dressed, preparing to go teach a First Amendment class. Then Matt Lauer interrupted an interview to show a gash, black and smoking, in one of the World Trade Center buildings. It was thought to be an accidental Cessna crash — a horrible thing but nothing you imagined you’d be commemorating ten years later. Transfixed by this improbable image, I noticed an airplane coming from the right of the screen. I remember thinking at that moment, “I can’t believe they’re letting aircraft fly in that area.” Then, as the plane disappeared behind the buildings, a fireball erupted from the other side. Soon there was the sickening sight of the buildings’ collapse. The university sent an email announcing that all classes were canceled.
We began remembering 9/11 on 9/11, with continual replays of the attacks. For weeks thereafter, we wondered what fresh hell might be brought by the overhead sound of a jet engine. That day is still a gash of its own in the memory of any American who lived through it.
There were many tributes in the days and weeks that followed, but I can think of none more painful and also uplifting than this one, which came four months later.