Memories of a dark day

On Wednesday, as we all made our way through the working day, echoes of President Obama’s confusing speech on Syria bouncing around in our heads, occasionally a resident would stop, turn to the person closest to him or her, and say, “Wow, I just realized it was Sept. 11.”

Many of us also couldn’t help comparing that dark day 12 years ago with the ominous talk of bombing Syria that is currently keeping the world on pins and needles.

If the U.S. does indeed attack Syria, we will all be in for some tense, frightening days as we wait to see how other countries react. If the bombs are dropped, it will not come as a complete surprise to us, however, which marks this period of our history as distinctly different from Sept. 11, 2001.

The awful impact of 9/11 was felt instantly around the world, causing not just horror and disbelief but also terror, even in small towns like Elkins, far removed from the big cities and major terrorist targets.

In The Inter-Mountain newsroom that morning, when the editors and reporters gathered around the tiny television saw the second plane hit the Twin Towers, it was clear to them America had been attacked. Staff members were immediately dispatched to record the responses of our community to the shocking events.

The massive loss of life – and the fact that no one yet knew the reasons behind the attacks- frayed local nerves to the breaking point by noon.

Reports circulated locally that an airplane was circling the Elkins-Randolph County Airport. Although the phenomenon was later explained, in the moment many residents were terrified. Parents clogged the Beverly Five-lane on their way to pick their children up from Elkins High School, believing an attack on the nearby airport was imminent.

By afternoon, many people had gathered their families inside their homes, watching CNN hour after hour, fearing further acts of terrorism were inevitable.

That evening, long lines snaked around the gas pumps at local service stations, as drivers filled up their tanks and gas cans, worrying that the attacks would result in the flow of oil from the Middle East being cut off.

It’s a time no one who lived through it will ever forget. That terrible day ushered in two wars, and whatever one thinks of the merits of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is fair to say that most Americans are now weary of war. That helps explain the lack of support citizens have shown for Obama’s air strike plan, and why Congressional leaders are wary of falling in line behind the president.

Sept. 11, 2001 led us into a dark new world. Twelve years later, many Americans are looking for traces of daylight, not another rabbit hole to dive into.