Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Memories of 9/11

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I saw my children off to school before settling down in front of the television a little before 9:00 to eat breakfast. The news showed that a plane had slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center a few minutes earlier. I listened to the network anchors speculate on what had transpired.

To my surprise, another plane appeared on the TV screen. The next few seconds were surreal. Time seemed to slow down as many thoughts ran through my mind. Why was the plane flying so close to the towers? Wasn’t the pilot aware another plane had hit one already? And then I braced myself.

When the plane slammed into the South Tower and partially exited the other side, a sick feeling came over me. This was no accident. The United States was under attack. Soon afterward, a plane crashed into the Pentagon and another in Pennsylvania. As the events unfolded the rest of the day, the sick feeling in my soul grew. When would the next attack happen? Would we ever feel safe again?

As many Americans did, I clung to my faith. No matter what, God was with us. Bad things happen in this world. Americans shouldn’t buy into the false belief we are exempt.

On 9/11, and in the days and weeks to follow, political party lines were erased. President Bush reassured us from the top of the Twin Towers rubble with a bullhorn in his hand and again, days later, when he bravely walked to the center of a major league baseball field and threw out the first pitch. Congress stood arm-in-arm on the steps of the Capitol and sang God Bless America. We were one people with one voice joined in determination to protect what America stood for—freedom.

But there was another angle to 9/11 for my family. My son Josh turned seven years old that day. We had serendipitously celebrated with a party the Saturday before. Many years passed before he enjoyed another birthday. The na├»ve belief in our nation’s security that the party-goers appreciated three days before the attacks had been shattered much like Pearl Harbor had done almost sixty years before.

My son’s generation has grown up in the shadow of the war on terror. Some of his earliest memories are of his country going to war—a war brought to our shores as it had been sixty years earlier. I had a difficult time making sense out of the attack, and an even more difficult time explaining it to him.

Born out of this tragedy was renewed patriotism for many Americans, young and old alike. The scenes of firefighters running into towers that eventually collapsed on them had a profound effect on Josh. Their sacrifice instilled in him a sense of duty toward his country and fellow man.

When Josh turned 16, he joined the Hopewell Fire Department teen explorer program. He completed the rigorous Fundamentals of Fire Fighting class this spring and will be eligible to be voted in as a full firefighter on September 11, 2012.

Ten years after this horrible terrorist attack on our nation killed thousands of Americans, I still get chills thinking about it. We’ve managed to capture or kill many of the masterminds involved in the plot. Many servicemen have been killed, injured, or psychologically changed from our war on terror. Americans have changed. We’re all battle weary from the evil perpetrated on us that clear September morning and its aftermath. We learned on 9/11 that the bubble of security we’d foolishly wrapped ourselves in did not exist.

But we also reaffirmed something Americans knew before the attacks. Americans pull together for the good of all. Americans overcome. As we pause to honor the victims of 9/11 today, let us do so with the spirit of hope their lives represented.

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