I was late. I had an early morning Music Appreciation class with Professor Nikitopoulos. I ran out of my dorm, jumped on my bike, and rode across campus. I remember how bright and sunny it was.
I ran into my class and I was at least 5 minutes late, but the professor was nowhere to be found. I walked to the back of the class I heard, “This going to be on the news forever.” I asked a classmate what was going on. He said, “The World Trade Center was attacked. Professor Nikitopoulos has family in New York that she’s worried about.”
She struggled with the class. I went to my Western Civ seminar, and we tried to talk about the impact of what has happened. After 10 minutes of realizing that our lives just changed forever, our professor Rex Stem told us to head back to the dorms and watch the news.
It was girlfriend’s 18th birthday. We sat on her bed, watched the news, and cried. Two weeks into college, and this was my rude awakening. I wanted to enlist. I wanted to fight. All I could think about was a Reader’s Digest article about the attempted bombing of the World Trade Center when I was a kid. I remember how horrified I was when I read that.
My entire college experience was under the specter of war. I remember people in Baton Rouge harassing Arab students. I remember my contentious international studies and political science classes. I remember my friends being shipped off. I remember sitting in the break room at Disney during my internship talking to a co-worker about his tours in Afghanistan on the day we declared war on Iraq. I remember him being worried and him choosing to re-enlist that day.
I remember what these battles did to my friends. One was so horrified by what happened to him that the nights drinking with him were events. One time he basically destroyed his apartment in full uniform. His roommate had to hide guns from him. I remember the happiness of capturing Saddam Hussein and hoping that Osama bin Laden was soon after. I remember how big an issue the war was in the 2004 election cycle and how contentious Free Speech Alley at LSU was over it.
I remember in 2006 when politicians began distancing themselves from the Iraqi war. I remember being angry at the lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction. I remember how cool it became to hate President Bush, to hate the war, and to be disillusioned with the United States.
It followed me into law school. My first year in law school people were so divisive. I remember all the international panels. I remember that year’s International Law Society’s 9/11 panel. I remember going up to KU’s main union to hear about the harboring of terrorists in the northwest tribal territories in Pakistan by a mostly Pakistani panel. I remember how angry and hopeful the 2008 election cycle was.
I remember the debt number climbing, the economy began to falter, and my classmates being fearful of their future employment potential. I remember other classmates wanting to enlist into JAG to continue in their country’s service with their new skill set. I remember attending an international law conference in D.C. and standing on the rooftop of the Department of State hoping that the world would turn around. I remember feeling lucky to walk those halls, to be in those ballrooms, and to stand on the rooftop of where our country handles foreign policy and relations.
This hunt and these wars have followed me into my adult career. It followed me to New Orleans. It followed me through the bar exam.
Then after a weekend at home, where I helped my best friend cook at a fundraiser, and we decided to extend our weekend… he and I were sitting at the kitchen table after a bowl of pho… only to hear my father say. “Osama is dead.”
We ran out of the kitchen and into the living room and couldn’t turn the TV on fast enough. After watching CNN and NBC news, we were waiting and waiting for President Obama’s speech. I got back on Facebook for the first time in months. Text messages were flying amongst my friends. I texted my ex about hopefully having closure on the drama of her birthday. Twitter was a mess. My Facebook feed was polarizing with people simultaneously hating President Obama and praising President Obama… hating President Bush and praising President Bush… with very few people in the middle pointing out that good news is good news.
I remember tearing up with my best friend on the other couch when the crowd sang the national anthem at the gates of the White House.
Then the cynicism of my generation of adults sunk in. We had grown up in war time and all we had was humor to combat it. If we didn’t go to war ourselves, we had to deal with it with sarcasm and wit. Jokes about finding Carmen Sandiego and Waldo, TSA, and seventeen virgins popped up. People were quickly referencing Team America.
And now at 4:55 AM, I can’t get back to sleep. I feel so relieved. Yet, I feel so sad that it required a death of a man to feel this way. The impact of a tall lanky bearded son of a Saudi billionaire who decided to become a radical terrorist had altered my life since I was an 18 year old freshman at LSU to a young man trying to re-start and re-make my life after law school.
Now at 5:00 AM, I just got a call from my ex from law school who is in the D.C. airport this morning who slept through the news. She learned about it through text messages this morning and was watching CNN at the airport.
I feel like today is such a new day. I can’t even explain it, and I apologize for my poorly written meandering post. I just feel better. I feel less cynical. I feel more hopeful. I guess even though it might take the United States a long time to get a job done it still gets done. Considering my own checkered past of not doing anything within its time frame, I shouldn’t judge.
I’m just as proud to be American today as I was yesterday, but today, I get to puff out my chest a little bit.