Growing up, the age-defining question: “where were you?” pertained to the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. For some, it was the day that man first walked on the moon.
Now, I’m afraid that defining moment will be the day our country was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001. I will never forget it and I pray that we will never experience anything like it again.
That bright autumn day, I was at a client’s office about to conduct a media training session. People had flown in from across the country and some were still en route. We gathered in a conference room with a television and watched in horror and disbelief as the second airplane flew into the second tower. With streaming tears at the surreal events of the day, we began to check on the safety of those en route and swiftly cancelled the day’s training.
Back at the office, my colleagues were calling and emailing loved ones and friends in New York and on airplane flights. We closed the office and headed to our homes to watch the television coverage and try to make sense of what was happening. We learned that all airports were closed and flights were grounded across the country and the tragic results of the attacks began to be revealed.
I called my father and tearfully told him to turn on the television. “Our nation is under attack,” I said. My father was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s at the time and I realized that my words didn’t make sense to him, but how could they make sense? “I’ll tell your mother,” he said as though he was taking a routine phone message. In retrospect, as a two-time US Navy and Army veteran, I am glad that he didn’t really understand what was happening.
I went home to find my husband busily installing a new deck, and blissfully unaware of what was happening. I desperately wanted to discover the whole thing was some kind of mistake — not real, and yet the television kept replaying the horrific images and the sad realization set in.
Since that time, I’ve been to Ground Zero in New York several times to try to somehow grasp the implications of the tragedy and pay respects to those who died there. I’ve been incredibly moved by St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church , a historical church located adjacent to Ground Zero that survived virtually untouched by the debris raining down from towers as they fell. This church was used as a safe haven for first responders who needed a place to pray, eat and sleep during the terrible events on 9/11 and in the days that followed
Now, people from all over the world visit this church and see different exhibits of the many men and women who helped during the tragedy. The outpouring of support and expressions of patriotism for those affected and for our country are evident and very inspiring. If you go there, take tissues.
Ten years later, monuments to those who lost their lives in the attack have been designed and rebuilding around the site is a testament to the tenacity of New Yorkers and all Americans. Tributes to the fallen and the first responders will occupy the news media this weekend and we will be reminded of this event’s terrible toll. I will continue to be grateful to live in a country that respects and reveres human life and is founded on individual freedom and liberty.
Where were you on 9/11?