I looked up to the blue sky and took a deep breath as I walked across the street to work. What a gorgeous day. I never suspected the nightmare that was about to unfold.
For my parents’ generation, they never forgot the moment when they heard that President Kennedy had been shot and killed. For my grandparents, that moment must have been when they first heard Pearl Harbor had been attacked or that WWII was over. As there are several moments frozen in time for each generation, there have been a few during my lifetime: learning President Reagan had been shot, hearing that the space shuttle had exploded, but none as confusing or shocking to hear about than the events following a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers.
Maybe an hour after walking across the street and marveling at the weather, my co-worker received a phone call from her brother to tell her about the first “crash.” That’s odd, I wonder how that happened. Her brother called back soon after to tell her that another plane had flown into the other tower. Someone turned on a radio so we could hear the news. Soon after, the Pentagon was hit. Then we heard the loud rumble of a tower falling. Dear God, what about all those people? I left work. Sometime later I heard about one more plane crashing into a field somewhere in Pennsylvania.
I was 10 when we lived on Staten Island for several months in the late 70s. It was a pit stop in the tour of duty. We did all the touristy things while we were there — Statue of Liberty, Staten Island Ferry (complete with drunk guy peeing overboard and Mom and Dad shooing us away from the scene), Empire State Building, the Twin Towers.
I remember standing at the bottom of one of those gigantic buildings, looking up and not seeing the top — all the steel lines converging into a point. We went up, up, up, up, up in the elevator, switching at some point. After we finally got to the top, we weren’t allowed to go outside because it was too windy. As I looked out one huge window, I saw way, way down below on one of the freeways that someone had painted the words “Why cars?” That still makes me smile for some reason.
I have tried through the years not to watch the footage of that day too much. I’m afraid if I do, I will somehow forget that it was real. I do not ever want to become numb to the images, to the fact that so many people lost their lives, and that so much overwhelming pain began in a few hours on one beautiful day. I also don’t want to forget that in the face of unleashed evil, there is still a spirit within us that can respond to others in great love and sacrifice. Regular human beings caught in a hellish nightmare reached out in heroic ways to help and save others — many losing their lives in the process.
I am in awe of those who have somehow managed to stand back up and move on after losing a loved one that day. I am amazed by people who must have seen and experienced horrific things who have somehow pulled through and dared to live again. I hurt for the children who lost a mother or father, some they never had the opportunity to hold and kiss and know. I am filled with gratitude for our military men and women and all others (their families included) who have served, sacrificed and stood in the way of terrorists to protect us.
May God’s peace cover and bless each and every one of you.