It seems like yesterday. And yet, so much was different.
My kids were little. I still felt young. We were all so naive.
Oh, of course we knew the world was a dangerous place, in which Americans serving abroad could be murdered by terrorists, buildings could be bombed, planes could even explode. But for these things to all happen here, on a bright sunny morning, while my children, blessedly on West Coast time, still slept.
"Turn the TV on," my friend Annie literally barked at me. "The world is going to hell."
Not knowing what was coming, my children held close, we watched the Tower collapse.
Who could do this?
Sometimes, when I am giving speeches before Jewish groups and looking for any levity I can find, I ask whether anyone in the room thought for a moment that it was Canadian separatists. That's the irony, of course. We knew exactly who could do this, and why, and yet until then, I think most of us were not scared.
I was scared of cancer and earthquakes, drunk drivers, rare childhood diseases, running out of money. I was not, foolish me, scared of al-Qaida. I had not spent much time thinking about Osama bin Laden.
They did not have guards at every entrance to my temple.
I worried about the State of Israel, not Temple Israel of Hollywood.
So we all remember exactly where we were, just like I remember being in Miss Waite's history class at the Glover School in Marblehead when we heard about President Kennedy.
We baby boomers, or at least we Jewish ones, grew up with plenty of fear. My Hebrew school teacher had a number on his arm, which is certainly one of the reasons the Holocaust has been an issue of such importance to me. Then again, six million cousins of a cousin of a sister who did not get out, and there but for the grace of God, with Hitler in the background and Khrushchev banging his shoe at the United Nations and threatening to bury us, with my favorite Reader's Digest story all about how a classroom of nice elementary school students get brainwashed with wonderful thoughts about communism, your average kid had plenty to be scared about back then. But this is different.
Thousands of men, women and children did what thousands of us did today — went to work, got on a plane, ordered a glass of juice — some of them believers in the very religion invoked by their murderers.
How can you not be scared?
I can say as a talking — and writing head — that the beheadings were a public relations disaster for ISIS. Okay, so they lined up 80 men who do not share their religious views and murdered them and kidnapped their wives and children and were reportedly raping and selling them, which should be enough to unite the world. But beheading a nice Jewish boy from Miami who was writing stories sympathetic to the Muslims who live in war zones, and releasing it by video, the second of the week, complete with the English speaking hooded executioner, is just way over the line, public relations-wise.
Overkill, another of those black humor things you come back to because there's nowhere else to go. President Obama can't do much of anything in terms of domestic hot buttons these days, except issue executive orders, which he can't even do now for fear that it will hurt Democrats in tight races.
If Democrats lose the Senate, he can't even appoint anybody.
But fear and insecurity are not partisan issues. Neither party is pro ISIS. Those people on those planes, the people at work, they were Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, every color, every religion.
The man who ran on healthcare security now has to deal with the even greater problems of national security. Unlike health care, he'll find a majority in both parties who will give him as much military authority as he asks for — or more.
The problem, for once, is not politics at all. It's what to do, what will work and how to do it. It's what brought us together 13 years ago and what must bring us together again.
Susan Estrich is a best-selling author whose writings have appeared in newspapers such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. Read more reports from Susan Estrich — Click Here Now.