My Flickering Pandemic Memories

Memories of the pandemic are slipping away. Better write them down before they’re gone.

George Dillard
7 min readMar 14


Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

What do I remember about 9/11?

I recall little snippets, mostly. I remember watching the second plane hit the tower on a little portable TV on the receptionist’s desk at work, and the sinking feeling of certainty — this was no accident — that came with the images. I remember watching the towers collapse on that same TV, a reality I hadn’t thought possible until the moment it happened. I remember the days after, the constant drumbeat of news — there was nothing else on TV for a while. I remember George Bush and his bullhorn on the rubble. I remember being told — and believing — that this was just the first of many future devastating attacks, that we would live in a new age of terror.

I didn’t live close to New York at the time and didn’t know anybody who was killed in the attacks, but even so, 9/11 was a moment where the ground of history shifted beneath me. I had believed that things were one way, that there was one set of possibilities — but another set of facts turned out to be true. Many more things were possible than I had understood.

Now, I teach about 9/11 to my history students. They have lived their whole lives in the world after 9/11. They are as far removed from 2001 as I was from the end of the Vietnam War when I graduated from high school in the 1990s.

They understand the basics of that day, of course — they’ve grown up in a world defined by it. But they seem to find the whole thing simultaneously obvious and baffling — how could we not have seen it coming? Spending billions on airport security theater and surveillance seems faintly ridiculous to them. And the wars — they totally don’t understand why the United States launched into two disastrous conflicts with such heedless urgency and arrogance. It’s not just that they disagree with these things; they can’t see how they were possible.

I think that this is because my students, while they can understand what happened, can’t really understand how it felt at the time — how unsettling, how strange, how dark and dreadful it all was.

If I’m being honest, it gets harder for me to summon those feelings as the years go…



George Dillard

Politics, environment, education, history. Follow/contact me: My history Substack: