A lot of people remember where they were the morning of September 11, 2001. They might recall being in their car, office, or even at home like I was. I had spent the night before like most nights, watching a few shows on television and getting ready for my classes the next day. I was in the second week of my final college semester. And like most college seniors on september 10th, I was expecting to graduate in december and conquer the business world. Needless to say that all changed in a few short minutes.
Since my class didn’t start until the early afternoon, I was still in bed when the phone rang. My sister was on the other end of the line telling me to turn on the television. I didn’t think anything of the request at the time. She said a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. Naturally I turned on the TV thinking this odd that they would show a plane crash, even one with so visible a site as the World Trade Center was. I thought it was a terrible accident. Then as I watched, another plane came rushing into view and strike the other tower. Something inside of me told me this was not an accident. I could feel a stinging, sickening feeling start in my stomach.
As that horrible day progressed, the news came that the Pentagon had been hit by another plane. All I could think was “What the Hell is going on?”. My boss must have been hysterical in retrospect, his only daughter was serving in the Air Force, and supposed to be in the Pentagon that day with her husband who was also stationed there. The minutes must have seemed like hours and the hours like days as no word came immediately from their wellbeing. The call finally did come of their safety. He wouldn’t show it, but I could see the relief in his eyes.
I’m sad to say that not every family was so lucky that day. Most of the people trying to locate loved ones were put through the agony of tied up cell phone lines and then the pain of knowing that their loved ones would never make it home. The final straw for me came when I heard the HEROIC story of those people on flight 11 that crashed in Pennsylvania. They somehow knew what was happening and had the strength and fortitude to do what was needed to save the lives of those that would surely have died had they not taken that plane back over. Those brave men and women gave the most precious gift they could have given to this country. They gave their lives.
I remember selfishly thinking of my brother while all this was going on. His birthday had been the day before on September 10th. He had only been in the Air Force boot camp for a few weeks when all this happened. I can remember from junior high the letters we as a class sent to soldiers stationed in the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm. The woman who was my English teacher at the time made us do it. I am so very grateful today that she did. I didn’t understand what she meant back then how much the soldiers needed on some level to recieve our letters. Now I can appreciate her efforts. Sometimes she would come to class with mascara run down her face, her son was a soldier at the time. Often she would just break down in the middle of class and start to cry. We couldn’t understand then like many kids probably do not understand now.
My cousin is 10 years old, he told his teacher September 11th that he thought his cousin, my borther was hurt as he watched the events happen. He didn’t realize that his cousin, my brother was far away from the attacks in Texas. How was that teacher to respond to something like that? How do we tell our kids that these cowards that did this do not represent their race or countrymen? And what might you have done had a child asked you what was going on that day when most of us were still trying to figure it out ourselves? Thankfully she asked that his mother come down to the school. Together his mother, my aunt, and my mother got out a map. They showed him where Texas was on a map and how far it was from what was happening in New York City. He began to understand that his cousin was not in anymore harm than the rest of us. I bring this up, because we need to show our resolve to the rest of the world politically, patriotically, and yes even militarily. But we also need to take a moment and explain to our children what is going on. We need to be honest and give it to them straight, with no racial predjudices, no hate, just honest answers.
Getting back to my brother, I was terribly frightful that our country’s leaders might want to strike back immediately and start a war. My father was in the Air Force in 1975 and luckily escaped having to go to Vietnam, however many of the people I know had to go to that country and fight in the War. Naturally I have grown up in a generation that was taught by our parents to be weary of war, for they remember the wrath that Vietnam still wreaks upon this nation. But this was NOT, let me repeat, NOT Vietnam. These terrorists attacked us on our land, we weren’t fighting a civil war in a land far away, this was America they were attacking. And I feared my brother would soon be in harm’s way if cooler heads did not prevail.
Me and my mother were scheduled to go to Texas on September 19th as he would be graduating from boot camp. Mercilessly the flight was not cancelled. I have no fear of flying, even now in the wake of all this madness that was going on. And I have no fear of dying. I hope if the time ever came that I will be as brave as the men and women of flight 11. I got to see my brother when we got to Texas, and although the base was under extreme security we were able to witness one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen, a military parade in which he was a part of. I’m not hesitant to say it was the proudest day of my life. Growing up I helped to raise him, especially after my parents divorced and I kind of felt like my own son was up there in that parade. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God that I was blessed with the opportunity to see that.
Getting back to September 11th, there was not a lot we could have done on that day. Like most Americans we were glued to our seats, me and my friends who had congregated at our local hangout. A friend of mine asked that we call the radio station, before we could dial the number they had played the songs we had needed to hear. “Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood had a stronger feeling that night. Maybe we forget sometimes how specially blessed we are to live in this country. I thank God every day that I live here. Another guy came in later that said a group, and I mean like by the 1,000’s were leaving Chicago, mostly police, firemen, and other law enforcement personnel were leaving Chicago to help out in New York any way they could. Immediately we wanted to go. We didn’t care what we had to do, we wanted to help. He was a police officer himself, he said though we wanted to help, there wasn’t anything we could do. New York was already being swamped with people wanting to help and they were only compounding the problem with traffic. So we stayed there, helpless. We felt like we should do something, but what? Many of us gave the next day to collections that sprung up for the victims. It seemed all we could do.
One year later…it seems like so long ago. As I sit here I can still feel the tears I shed that day roll down my face. My heart is heavy, yet my spirit is strong. We have walked through the valley of Death as a nation. We fear no Evil. In our darkest day we met the challenges of those that wished us harm, and we have overcome them.
So where do we as a nation go from here. The biggest thing we can do is take a few moments this September 11th and remember those we lost and those we have found in the last year. We should NOT hold the day up as a holiday, like someone suggested, but rather as a day of rememberance. A day when we reflect on the absolutely wonderful things of the people who are no longer here. A smile, a touch, the way they would always tell that same joke in the lunchroom. Let us remember the men and women who went to work that morning to do their jobs. Let us remember the firefighters and police who died doing theirs. Let us pray for our families, our friends, the men and women who helped on that day, and the ones who wanted to. Most of all let us pray for the strength to help each other get through this on the one year anniversary of that horrible day.