Yesterday, my oldest asked me if I remembered where I was when I heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center. She said a teacher had told her there are moments in history when most people can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
September 11, 2001, is one of those moments in history. Yes, honey. Yes. I remember. I will always remember.
Like most, I remember where I was, what I was doing and even what I was wearing. I remember the fear I felt and the overwhelming desire to get home to be with, and to hug, the people I loved.
We didn’t have televisions in our office, but we had a radio playing. I remember standing by the filing cabinet when I heard the news that the first tower had been hit.
For a brief period of time, it seemed like it was an accident. It had to be an accident. Right?
And then the second tower was hit, and the reality this was no accident struck. Hard. It seemed we were at war.
I remember walking dazed and scared to the cafeteria and seeing the footage play on the television. It was so much worse than I had imagined.
I remember the shock. The horror.
I remember watching in dread as people jumped to their death from the smoky buildings. I remember watching the footage and hearing the sound as bodies hit the ground. Tears rolled down my cheeks. These were loved ones. Moms. Dads. Grandparents. Children. These people. These poor people.
I remember watching as the second plane hit. I remember the images of people covered in ash running. Some walking. It was chaos. It was horrible. But I couldn’t stop listening. And watching. And wondering. And waiting. What would be next? The Pentagon. The crash in Pennsylvania. It felt like it would never end. What else would be hit? I had never felt so unsafe in my country.
That night, my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and I drove to a local church. At that time in our lives we hadn’t been attending church regularly, but we knew we wanted to be with others who believed in God. We wanted to be in prayer. It was dark when we walked up to the church. The Priest was getting ready to leave when we walked up. Others were walking up, too. We weren’t alone in our need to be somewhere with others. We didn’t know what to do, but we knew we wanted to do something. Anything. In that moment, gathering with strangers in front of a church seemed like the only something we could do. In retrospect, when I don’t know what to do – gathering with others to pray is always a good start.
The Priest stood with us outside, held our hands and prayed.
Over the next weeks, the images played over and over and over again. And people were scared. So scared. I will never forget the eery silence outdoors when all flights were canceled and the fear I felt when they resumed. I remember hearing a plane fly overhead, looking up and thinking – things will never be the same, again.
Life did return to normal, but it was a post 9/11 normal.
We each carry memories and stories from that day. Some watching and listening from a radio or television. Some seeing the tragedy unfold before their eyes from a distance. And others who were there. Those who survived.
Whatever your story, the memories from that day will always be with us.
The images of heroes rushing back into the flaming, smoking buildings – sacrificing their lives for the lives of complete strangers. The images of the heroes lifting the flag to the sky on a mound of rubble. The images of family members crying as they held up signs showing faces and names of missing loved ones. The images of the buildings going down. Knowing precious lives were lost.
Thank you to the men and women who gave their lives for the lives of others. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice. Thank you to the heroes then, and the heroes now.
You will never be forgotten.
September 11, 2001. We will never forget!