Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Memory of September 11

On the tenth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack that the United States – actually the world – has ever seen, I want to take a moment to remember how that day changed the world.

I remember that morning distinctly.  I was living in Los Angeles and worked downtown.  Before commuting into the office, I watched the breaking news on how four airplanes had been hijacked and were being used as weapons of mass destruction: first at the Twin Towers; then the Pentagon; and when I went to work – yes, I worked for a news wire so I had to go into the office – the third plane, which eventually crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, was still unaccounted for in the air. 

When I arrived at my skyscraper, the National Guard was outside and told us that our building was evacuated and we had to go home.  My boss man said that, if we went home, we were fired. 

I remember how surreal it was that day.  Los Angeles was eerily quiet.  There wasn’t a soul on the streets and our usually crowded freeways were completely empty.  Everyone was afraid to leave home; glued to their television sets and computers watching this catastrophe unfold.

Our New York bureau was closed so we were taking their calls.  I sat there and cried as I spoke to hundreds of people -- husbands, wives, mothers, sons and daughters who were looking for their loved ones.  One woman said her husband always took the PATH train through the World Trade Center and she wasn’t able to reach him.  I had no words for her or any of the worried callers that reached me that day.  I went home and decided to take my chances on getting fired.  (Which I didn’t)

My insignificant experience was nothing compared to those of the 2,947 victims who lost their lives; or individuals and families that live with the loss of loved ones on that terrible day a decade ago.

I know that like most of the world, I felt scared and out-of-control that terrorist could do this to our mighty nation.  It didn’t help that the media kept playing the images of the Twin Towers collapsing over and over and over again.

From her apartment on the Jersey shore, my Nana told me she could see the Towers burning.  She said it seemed like Armageddon.  I felt so far away from my family and friends back in New Jersey and New York.  Watching the devastating images of a city that I had called home just paralyzed me.

It felt so hopeless because I couldn’t be there with my loved ones. My Aunt Barbara lost her best friend and my best friend’s husband (at the time) lost a close family friend. 

It seemed that everyone I knew had lost someone or had been affected in some terrible way, but it was the stories of the survivors that were hard to even comprehend.

Not too long after September 11, I met a 9-11 survivor who recounted his harrowing experience from that day.

He had lived in New York and worked in one of the Towers.  Every morning, he and a few co-workers would ride the elevators down to the lobby and take a mid-morning coffee break. 

On September 11, 2001, he went down with his friends as usual and, was just about to head up in the elevator with them, when his cell phone rang.  He took the call and the first plane hit – everyone in that elevator perished.  He said he didn’t really know what was going on but, his first reaction was to escape and run outside the building.

He and a woman did this together and, just as he was about to step outside, jet fuel and fuselages rained down on New York City.  He watched as the woman and other people who were standing just outside the glass doors were crushed or burned to death. 

This man lived to tell his story; sadly the woman he met in the lobby did not.

So many people senselessly lost their lives.  So many heroic Americans sacrificed their lives to help those innocent souls. 

As a nation, we banded together to help our neighbors and fellow countrymen affected by this attack.  Uncle Sam set out to get those bad guys and our military went to the Middle East to kick some ass.  Along with the rest of the world, I was happy to hear that they took “THE” bad guy -- Osama Bin Laden-- down.   I don’t like to promote a tit for tat, but I felt relieved going to bed that night knowing he was no longer in this world.

Over the past decade, it seems like Americans have lost that loving feeling.  The unity that existed in our nation and around the world after the catastrophic events of 9-11 is now gone.

Our nation faces the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression and we need some hope and optimism.

This morning, my son asked me what happened on 9-11.  It was a very difficult question to answer.  I always try to be honest but, at the same time, I didn’t want to frighten him.

Jason and I tried to explain to him in the most basic terms that the terrorists or “bad guys” killed a lot of Americans to hurt us because they have different values that are extreme.  But that the army – or GI Joes to put it in a scope that he could understand – were able to get the bad guys and the men and women in our armed services continue to protect us so other bad guys can’t hurt us that bad in the future.

He seemed to understand this explanation and, so far, it hasn’t seemed to upset him; however, I need for him to know what happened 10 years ago today and how that changed our world forever.

My goal is to teach my son that he lives in a great country, but life isn’t always fair.  The terrorist attack on September 11 is proof of that statement; too many good souls were lost.

“Gone, but not forgotten."

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