September 11, 2001, was my first day at my first post-college job. At 8am, before we knew anything, I set up a table in the student union at the East Coast boarding school where I had gotten a community service teaching fellowship. For half an hour or so, I cheerfully encouraged sleepy students shuffling through on their way to breakfast to sign up for the various community service projects that I was running or organizing. Then the news hit, and suddenly we were all very very awake, and all the televisions in the student union got tuned to the news and stayed there for three days. There was a debate about whether to have classes or whether to have an assembly but it was all still so new and so jumbled that what would we say at an assembly? Then the second plane hit and we knew that this would not be a day of classes, that there would be an assembly, and a candlelight vigil, and a non-denominational prayer service during which I’d go to church, by choice, for the first time in years. Word traveled quickly around campus about the several kids had just lost a parent or an uncle or a sibling who worked for a bank or a law firm. We all knew about the one boy who, on his first day of his first year of boarding school, his first moments living away from home, lost his father. I cried, hard, for that little boy, for the bewildered, lost look on his face when his mother came to pick him up and bring him home the next morning, on what would have been his second day of high school. I cried at my own stupid independent streak that had taken me to this place, far away from my family and my friends and anyone who I loved whose hand I could hold while we watched hour upon hour of news coverage showing, in painful detail, what we had lost. Today, I happened to be at the gym when the memorial activities in New York started. I watched, astonished, as one by one the people on the treadmills and stairmasters and the guys lifting weights stopped what they were doing, paused their machines, and without prompting, at the precise time when the first plane hit the first tower five years ago today, all of us who happened to be in my little gym in Chicago observed a moment of silence. More than any angry political rhetoric, more than any war mongering or peace protesting or shouting on Sunday morning television or smirking through a speech to the nation, more than any flag-waving, or flag-burning, that moment in the gym this morning reminded me how we are all, clearly, still reeling.