9/11 from HI

I think HI kids/adults have a different experience of 9/11 than other states because we were the state that was literally furthest away from the attack and so many people were still sleeping. I don’t think a lot of people knew until they got to school or work if they hadn’t switched on the TV or radio before going wherever.
I think because of distance a lot of people were far removed from anything mainland outside of tourism and American living. Unless the individuals traveled or generally cared about the rest of the country (be honest with me, we both know many don’t because of history) it wasn’t much more than a “Oh man, that’s so awful” like when we see one on the news today. We know it’s horrible, but it’s so far away. Every state got impacted by it, regardless of history.
I remember when it happened. I used to get up at 5:50AM for school (mom was a teacher so we had to get up early) and that day she woke me up at 5:00 AM (and I was super annoyed) but that emotion drained out of me when she said “There was a terrorist attack. The twin towers were bombed”
At 14 I had never heard the term “terrorist attack” and the twin towers were more of an urban fixture to me and I think it was that way to many kids who didn’t live in NYC. It was something cool looking like the Empire State Building or any other famous sky scraper we’ve seen a thousand times in movies and pictures.
So I push myself out of bed and heavily walked to my mother’s room. I walked in right as the second plane smashed into a tower. For a split second my adolescent mind tried to deny what I had seen, perhaps a commercial for a new action movie? I already knew it wasn’t walking in. Isn’t denial funny?
So we sat there for minutes watching the same footage over and over. Hearing the screams…not the canned Hollywood screams…but actual terror, terror that can’t be faked. I don’t care how many movies I’ve seen with emotional screaming that were cringe worthy to watch. It’s nothing like the shock, anger and absolutely horror in the screams of people who watched it in person (as in, in NYC) it’s this high bitched shriek from both men and women. A sound of pain, anger, shock and exasperation. An actor can’t fake that.
Then my mom had to go to work, obviously we weren’t in danger but she still wanted me with her. If you remember I went to school in Kailua. Kalaheo. My mom worked at Kailua Intermediate. There were a ton of base kids that went to my school, and seeing their reactions were both disturbing and heart breaking.
These were military kids, they grew up knowing what sort of instances send their parent to war. This was one of them.
At the school there were girls wailing with the fear that their dads or moms might be shipped away to some place where they could be killed and boys simmering with barely banked rage. I think they wanted to fight. ANYONE. Drain the fear away for awhile, maybe?
In particular I remember one of my mom’s students, and to this day she sticks out in my mind as one of the distraught base kids. She always wore super heavy make up and tons of glitter. When I saw her it was like a chaos of black, red and glitter smeared all over her face from her tears and wiping away at said tears. She had to be held by a teacher to stop shaking.
I remember being super enraged at some local kids because they were acting like it was no big deal. That it happened there, so it had no relevance in HI. Who cares about 3,000 offlanders anyway?
These same callous kids went from saying “I’m not American, I identify as Hawaiian” or some variant, to saying “I’M AMERICAN AND I’M A VICTIM” within a few days. It didn’t take long for them to realize they’re both and they’ll be effected regardless. I felt like at that point they didn’t get to pick since they hated America so much anyway, but I was a kid then. I didn’t understand the complexities.
In every classroom there was a TV playing the same footage over and over and in my mom’s classroom one local student sarcastically said that he “liked watching the plane crash into the buildings over and over” because he was annoyed at seeing the same thing all day. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was so harsh and scathing the kid was afraid to say anything for the rest of class. I was only a grade older than him and he had no reason to give a shit about what a haole kid said. “Good. That monster” I thought. I still feel rage when I think of that kid. He was only a kid, but only a selfish idiot wouldn’t realize how awful it was. The fact that he was only thinking about himself during all this made him a monster to me. Still does. This kid probably grew up to be a selfish monster.
Some local kids (when I say “local” I mean people born there, not racial) didn’t even realize it had happened when they got to school because no one was watching TV before they went to school. I remember hearing one kid chiding his friend saying “He was probably at home watching Scooby Doo” This is likely not the case with the vast majority of base children, whose parents would have known seconds after everything kicked into gear. I bet every military personal did within minutes across the country, and the world.
A lot of people were worried that Pearl Harbor would be next. Even then I thought it was stupid. It didn’t hold the value it once did. It’s still important, but we weren’t in a massive world war either. Sure, it was still an active base (though most people only think of the tourist memorial) but it wasn’t the last strategic stop between the US and Japan during a huge war. That was over and we were allies now. At leas that was my 14 year old logic about the situation.
Then I heard a few women (teachers) say it was because people were Christian. I pointed out there were more than Christians likely killed and they dismissed me. Everyone had their own theory and in my opinion most were wrong. They were, but I didn’t have any better ideas, I was 14, I wasn’t there. I just remember that no knew anything but everyone thought they knew. I bet it was like that across the country. Hated white people, hated Christians, hated our affluence, hated everything. I heard the same stories over and over, depending on who was the most scared if it applied to them. There are a lot of white Christians in this country.

One thought on “9/11 from HI

  1. I am white, but not Christian, living in Phoenix at the time. We knew no one was coming for us, but there was shock and horror at the acts. People were concerned about possible attacks on Chicago, LA and Seattle, even Toronto.

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