September 11, 2001
Where were you when the world stopped turning? September 11, 2001.
When I was a teacher, I shared my memories and the history of this day with classes of students who were not even born yet. And, as we face each anniversary, more and more Americans are of an age where they have no individual memory of this event. While this fact alone makes me feel a bit old, I am more cognizant than ever of the fact that as time goes by, and more years pass between the event and the present, more and more people will not even think about what happened on that beautiful September morning in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.
Remembering a Horrible Day….
On September 11, 2001, my life was quite different than it is today. I was still married to an Air Force F-15E WSO (Weapons System Officer). We had just moved to Anchorage, AK and my then husband was in North Carolina going through some training. My girls and I were staying in temporary housing on the base. School had just begun and fall was in the air.
The phone rang at about 5:30AM. My sister, who lived in Southern California at the time, was on the other end of the line. I was groggy and half asleep when I heard her say, “Turn on the TV, something bad is happening.” As I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, we watched in horror as the first tower of the Trade Center was spewing smoke. Our disbelief turned into fear as we witnessed the second plane fly into the other tower and then shortly after, the towers fall. I can’t even begin to explain what we were feeling and thinking during this 60 or so minutes.
The rest of the day was spent watching the coverage every second. Every TV station was covering what had happened. Living on a base, we felt very safe. We heard the jets flying all day overhead, and let’s face it- do terrorists even know how to find Alaska? But, the fact also was that we knew these events probably meant the squadrons would be deploying in the very near future.
So Much Sadness…
Thinking about the loss of life was overwhelming. The initial estimates of how many people had died were in the thousands. It was simply horrifying. I spent most of that first day with my friend, Janet, who was also in the temporary housing. We sat together, we cried together and we tried to explain to our kids what was happening. Elizabeth had just started 5th grade, Sarah – 3rd. How do you explain to a child that there are some very bad people in this world? Who simply want to kill us because of where we live and our way of life?
As the magnitude of the tragedy unfolded on our TV screen over the following days, there was one photo from that day that broke my heart. Fr. Mychal Judge was a priest who ministered to the NYFD. When the first tower was hit he immediately went to the site to minister to the firemen and victims. He was hit by falling debris and is listed as the first casualty of 9/11. This picture was printed on the front page of the Anchorage Daily News. When I saw it, I remember sobbing uncontrollably. This picture wrapped up all the horror and sadness of that day. A gentle, caring man, cut down trying to help others, as so many were that day. God bless Fr. Judge.
There are thousands of stories from 9/11. Just about everyone I know was touched by it in some way. It seems we all either know someone personally or someone we know knows someone personally who lost someone that day. The voids these men and women left are vast.
Time Marches On…..
As the years have past, I have not forgotten these people. I have not forgotten the sacrifices of the first responders who lost their lives. I have not forgotten the people on those planes. I have to believe that God took them quickly and painlessly, wrapping his arms around them and swooping them straight to heaven.
It sometimes seems as we get further away from the original event, there is less remembering it. As a long time history teacher I am quite familiar with the notion that those who do not learn history are condemned to repeat it. Are we condemned to repeat this horrific event? Are we forgetting? Are we continuing to learn from this event? One of the positive aspects of September 11th was how the country came together in the aftermath. There were flags everywhere. We were united. What are we now?
God Bless the U.S.A.
Our country is the greatest in the world. We certainly have our problems, but we live in a place where we are free. Free to be who we want. Free to pursue our dreams, whatever they may be. Free to speak our minds. Free to practice our religions. Free to disagree. Free to be educated. We are so lucky!
We find ourselves in a time right now that is full of division. It makes me sad to see Americans being so truly mean to each other. Back in 2001, following the events of 9/11, the country came together in ways we rarely see these days. While I wouldn’t go back to that time for anything, I sometimes wish we could find a way to unite as we did after that horrible day.
What Will You Do to Remember?
So, on this September 11th, my hope is that we all take a moment to remember those lost. Remember how united we were in the days and weeks that followed. Remember how fortunate we are. Tell the people you love you love them. You never know when the world may stop turning again. Don’t waste a moment. Don’t waste a day. Appreciate the little things. Life is good, even when you’re having a bad day. Life. Is. Good.
Take Z Challenge: Instead of focusing on all the things you’re frustrated with regarding the United States- try and focus on the truth that all men (and women) are created equal. That we all deserve to live in peace and find our prosperity however that may look for each of us individually. All peoples deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Be the best of America. Be proud to be an American. And fly your flag, today and every day.