It was the beginning of my sophomore year in college. The weather that day was incredible - blue skies with light fluffy clouds scattered about, and just enough of a hint of autumn to refresh the soul. I was driving from my home in Nashville to Murfreesboro (about a 30 minute drive) when I first heard the news.
The first report seemed rather bland and somewhat uneventful, since early reports were cautious. My favorite morning show at the time (John Boy & Billy) interrupted their usual banter to announce that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. My initial thought was that it was a small 2-5 seater, not an airliner. Remembering the first bombing of the WTC, I said aloud to myself "Can't the twin towers catch a break?"
When I arrived on campus, I made my way to the University Center where there were plenty of TVs. Nothing could have prepared me for the HUNDREDS of students huddled around the big screens in the student lounge. People I hadn't talked to in years were there, but the only words any of us had were a perfunctory "hey" with our eyes never leaving the events unfolding.
By this time, the second tower had been struck and was billowing that terrible smoke into the air. When the first tower fell, we couldn't tell what exactly had happened due to the obscured view of the smoke; our first reaction was summed up by a girl that breathlessly asked "Oh my god... did it explode again?" It was a few minutes later when we realized the tower was gone completely.
From there, I made my way to my first class - history. If there was any place I would get perspective on this event, history class would be it. Upon entering the classroom, the teacher announced that the second tower had just fallen and he then went into his normally scheduled lecture for the day. I looked around the classroom, shocked at the seeming disinterest in what was happening. I audibly scoffed and exited the room quickly to go back to the University Center.
A couple of my friends from High School were there, in a fairly empty room watching the unfolding events. We watched the footage in New York, DC and PA not really grasping what was happening. The malaise lasted for days. September 12 came, and it was another beautiful day for weather - but something was missing. We were all where we were supposed to be, but it was clear we were all going through the motions.
I lived (and still do) live close to the Nashville International Airport and planes overhead had been a daily routine my entire life. The silence of the next few days was deafening. Once air traffic resumed, the slight pang of terror would strike somewhere deep inside with each passing airliner.
My questioning of faith, politics and life in general started on that day in earnest - and it continues today and likely for the rest of my days.