My senior year had barely begun. I was two months back from a year in China, living in an ideal apartment with ideal roommates in an ideal UW-student location. I was doing what I do best, sleeping in, maybe through class, but I think maybe just through the morning, planning to lazily wake up for an afternoon class. I am sure I hit the snooze button several times before my roommate Erin knocked on my door and said something about the World Trade Center.
I got up, threw on some clothes and put my contacts in. (I do nothing in the morning before contacts). It was sunny, a lovely day. Our apartment had dark hard wood trim and lighter hardwood floors. We had a screened-in back porch, setting for endless discussions on life, party chatter and quiet moments studying, reading and journaliing.
As I remember, when I emerged from my bedroom a few minutes after Erin woke me up, the three of us sat in the living room with the television on. We watched the stilted news coverage, revolving anchors and constant replays of the first and second airplanes penetrating the towers. I think I was awake and in front of the television when the second crumbled to the ground.
I remember at some point, maybe around 10 am going back to my room, to my familiar blue and green plaid bedding mussed on my bed, my carefully arranged mementos of friends from school, home and China, my Chinese paintings pasted on scrolls, hanging on the walls, my little computer desk. These were things I saw every day, but when I think about that day, when I put it into the context of my own life, however physically and emotionally far away that was, the details of my senior year room seem important, or at least memorable.
I don’t remember getting into the shower, or discussing where I was going with my roommates or the ten-minute walk to the Daily Cardinal office, but I remember arriving, comforted by the presence of my comrades in journalism, safe in the office I had spent so much time in over the years. I wish I remembered the looks on our faces, the feelings we expressed, the words we used, as we interacted with each other that day.
I hung around, no longer having an official position at the paper but copy-editing pages and chatting with the editors as the day passed.
There didn’t seem to be anywhere else useful to go. I definitely didn’t go to class and I don’t think I returned to my apartment until after dark. I wish I remembered my thoughts on my walk home. More likely, I was in my high-stress mode, where I make lists in my mind, arranging and re-arranging what I will do the next day. It didn’t seem right to cry, as nothing besides my American-ness had been affected. I did not know anyone in New York on September 11. But I knew it was a historic day, perhaps the day that would change the course of the lives of my generation, or perhaps not.
When I think back to my memories of that day, to what happened to me, what I did, leaving all of what came after and all that is happening now aside, I remember that my solace was the newspaper. I wanted to spend the entire day with my Cardinal friends, where I was an experienced alumni editor and might be able to make some useful contribution to reporting and commenting on the news. Journalism is one of those professions that didn’t seem pale and meaningless on September 11th. That is what I remember, that journalism seemed like civic duty that day. It seemed important, even as someone serving in a minor support role for a poor student daily in Madison, Wisconsin, it meant something to experience those confusing hours after the attacks in the company of writers, reports, editor and commentators.