Stories From A Wrestling Kid: September 11th

I really should have wrote this on September 11, 2011. I felt that day like I felt that same day 10 years ago. I felt like enough was enough. I remember getting in the car after school that day and immediately turning off the radio. I was tired of hearing about it. It was just sensory overload…and I guess that’s what I was feeling Sunday. We were getting bombarded with images, and tributes all day. I’m sure you wrestling fans saw the Smackdown on 9/13/01 a million times. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say that others wouldn’t saying better.

Then, watching RAW Monday night, I realized I had something very relevant to say. That I really had my own story. On RAW there was a montage of that 9/13/01 Smackdown…and for some reason all of these things came rushing back. I had forgotten, or repressed that entire show and how much it meant to me.

On 9/11 I didn’t want think about it anymore. 2:00pm. School was out. I was done. Shut up in my room.. No news. Nothing. It wasn’t until later that night that I really realized what had happened. I was only 15. Just a kid, really. I live in Texas, which is about as far removed from New York as you can get. At first I didn’t understand they were terrorist attacks. I barely knew what terrorism was. I wasn’t politically-minded, nor worldly, nor an activist. I’m sure I wasn’t much different from other teens in that way.

On 9/13/01 I was excited for Smackdown like always. I remember feeling the same as I always did…again not realizing the significance of even having a show at that point in time. When Vince came out, when all the Superstars came out, when Lillian Garcia sang that national anthem…suddenly the significance of what had really happened hit me like a ton of bricks. This was a big fuckin’ deal.

For the first time, I grieved for my country and for my people.

And even in the midst of that grief, of all of our grief…there was still wrestling. There were still good matches, bad matches, bad gimmicks, amazing characters. We were all fundamentally changed, and yet still there doing the same things we were the week before. Chanting, cheering, booing, throwing things at our TVs. LOL, that’s not just me, right?

We were still The United States of America.

It’s funny that the same things that got to me 10 years ago…when I re-watch the footage today still get to me. That night and 10 years later, seeing Sgt. Slaughter breaks me up every time. I don’t know why, but it just gets to me. The flag w/ Kurt Angle’s name on it. The Rock holding up the American flag. Of course, the crowd chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

The Rock was very important in my life at the time. He was really the only reason I was watching, frankly. For him to be there. To be standing next to Vince. To be holding up the flag. Our flag. He was really the spokesperson for all American wrestling fans at that moment in history. I bought that American flag “Just Bring It” shirt that came out soon after the attacks. It was the first wrestling merchandise I ever bought.

His words and the “Just Bring It” attitude were so important to me in that moment. Hell, even the president used those words to the terrorists. Now, we can argue the stupidity of saying those words to people who actually could…bring it…even more fiercely. However, I think it captures many of our sentiments at the time. In those first weeks and months. I’ve now learned how terrorists are created, and I think you should have compassion and empathy for all people. But there was an American experience we were having…and in those first moments it didn’t always include compassion for our “enemies.”

Wrestling was there to help me understand that moment. To help me grieve that moment. To help me remember the resilience of Americans in that moment. And on RAW this Monday, to help me remember how that moment shaped who I was to become. I’m was a wrestling kid, and I’m a wrestling fan because of moments like that.


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