September 20, 2021

COLUMN: 20 years later

It’s been 20 years since Sept. 11 and I still don’t think the events of that day have fully hit me, mainly because what was happening to me during that time.

Our first-born was only a week old on Sept. 11. I was still in first-time-parent frame of mind. I was using some vacation time to adjust to another person in the house. That morning wife Jennifer and I had heard of the reports of something had collided with the World Trade Center, but our son kept our interest more. Later on in the morning, Jennifer had a phone call with a health-care provider who had given us more detail of what happened in New York City, Washington D.C. and western Pennyslvania. By then, our attention was diverted to a moment in American history that will never be forgotten. And shouldn’t.

I’ve never been to any of the places that had an incident on Sept. 11. I only know of one person who knew a family that had a loved one lost in New York City. She was waiting for a job interview to begin. She lived in Chicago and was able to change her flight to New York City to interview earlier.

There are still some things that we experience today that is a consequence of Sept. 11.

I have flown a handful of times during those 20 years. I have never had a job or lifestyle that was dependent, on regular commercial air travel. I have had very good experiences while flying since Sept. 11. Growing up in Colorado, I remember as a kid being able to visit my aunt from California at the Denver airport during a layover to or from her parents who lived in Des Moines. Yes, we went right up to the gate to visit. Those days are long gone. After Sept. 11, airport security became more stringent.

Air travel still has frustrations, but these days it’s influenced by covid. According to the Washington Post in July, “airlines had reported 3,420 incidents of ‘unruly passengers’ this year to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has opened investigations into 555. By comparison, the FAA began preliminary inquiries into 146 such incidents in all of 2019. Although the FAA only began tallying the number of overall unruly incidents in mid-2020, as confrontations on airlines became more common.”

We still have problems on airplanes; they just look different than the one on Sept. 11.

I think respect toward the military has increased since Sept. 11. I have known a few people who had served somewhere in the Middle East during the past 20 years. One I know had a tour in Afghanistan. Prior wars America was in the enemy was well defined. Terrorism is not as easy to see. But it’s always good to see our service people come home. I do like to watch video how some parents find ways to surprise their child who is at school or some public location with their arrival. One thing I’ve noticed about myself the past 20 years is when someone who I just met makes some reference to having served I have responded with a thank you.

I have also caught myself noting where a glimpse of the World Trade Center is in a movie or a television show maybe one I have seen in reruns a dozen times. The buildings have been in everything from animated sitcoms to the ever popular “Seinfield.” “King Kong,” the movie made in 1976, had its climax using the World Trade Center. I’ve read some people’s stories who lived in New York City in the early 1970s who were not in favor of their construction, calling them too big upsetting the city’s skyline.

Of all the things that surprised me after Sept. 11, was it only took five years for a movie to be based on the day, aptly called “World Trade Center.”

I was a bit surprised it was that soon guessing Hollywood wanted more time to pass out of respect to those who lost a loved one.

But even 20 years later, I’m sure that still hasn’t been enough time for all those effected to learn how to live with it all.

I’m learning, too.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.