In writing biographically about myself, I must decide at what point in my life I should begin. I could start at the beginning with my birth and tell a straightforward narrative of my life, year by year, highlighting the more interesting moments therein. I don't like that idea, though. My life, thus far, can be carved up into a number of different epochs such as my adolescence, my pre-transplant era, or post-transplant era, which is currently unfolding.
Every character has that defining moment which inexorably alters the course of their life. The murder of Bruce Wayne's parents would lead to his adoption of his alter-ego, Batman. Uncle Ben's observation that "With great power, comes great responsibility," to young Peter Parker, followed by Ben's untimely murder, being two culturally relevant examples.
I believe that the best place to start, however, is right in the middle, during the transition from my pre 9/11 self to my post 9/11 self. The events of September 11, 2001 are, without a doubt, the catalyst which began my evolution into who I now am.
When it happened, I was living in a podunk town out west. There were only about 500 residents. Most of the town, as you might be able to guess, were highly conservative folks. At the time, I didn't know what I was politically. I had tried getting interested in politics during the recent presidential election, but I truly couldn't have cared less.
That morning I was in Algebra. Class had barely begun, and I was dicking around with some of my friends when our principal, a fairly handsome guy with dark hair combed modestly to the side, opened the door to the room, motioning for our teacher to approach. Of course, we knew someone was in deep shit, but who?
The teacher (I can't remember her name) looked solemn and contained - unusual for a woman as high strug as she was (students often bitched about not being able to keep up with her lessons, myself included). She turned on the television in the corner, flipping, if I remember right, to Fox News. There on the tv was the haunting image of the first tower, having just been struck minutes before, now a towering inferno (sorry for the cliche), with impenetrably thick smoke billowing from the side of the building.
It was uncertain at that point what exactly had happened, and many of us thought that some pilot had just made a serious error and landed inside the World Trade Center. Class continued, but with the television still on, muted. Leaving class, being our ignorant, thoughtless selves, myself and a couple friends made light of the situation while heading to English where details about what exactly was happening became terrifyingly clear.
The second plane smashed into the second tower with flames rocketing out the other end of the building. The destruction transforming several floors into the worst imaginings of Hell, with many innocent lives left to suffer the terrible holocaust. It would only be later that we would find out the situation for those stuck in the inferno was so horrible that casting themselves from the windows seemed like a better option than sticking around.
The day continued, but always with the TVs on, reminding us of what was happening in New York, and later, at the Pentagon. I was 14, and I had no idea what was happening, no context whatsoever. Unfortunately, neither did the majority of my fellow Americans. On the news, it was surmised fairly quickly who had done this: Al Qaeda, masterminded by some Arabian looking guy named Sam Ben Laden? I'd never heard of him.
"Why do they hate us?" became the question on everyone's tongues. The answer: "They hate us for our freedoms. Our freedom of religion. Our freedom to vote. Our freedom to speak freely." A terribly simple and myopic answer, but it seemed goddamn right to me. If we are to feel anything after this, I thought, it ought to be anger. I was beginning to feel the first vestiges of patriotism swelling in my heart. My world, seemingly in an instant, expanded, no longer was I bound by the roads that would lead me around my home. I may not be able to go to these places I was hearing about: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, but they were real, and we were going to go there and kick some ass. My thirst for revenge against the terrorists was fueled greatly by my discovery of a certain television personality who would, for the next few years, shape my attitudes towards my country and anyone who disagreed with me (and thus my country)...more to come in part 2.