Ten years ago today, I was sitting with colleagues in the office working on something inane. My wife and our three-year-old daughter were at home, and I was about two weeks from my 29th birthday. I remember distinctly that I laughed when someone mentioned that a “small plane” had crashed into the World Trade Center. We all laughed and wondered how in the world a small plan ran into a building.
We all jumped on the Internet and began hitting the news sites – trying to find out more of what had happened or even how it had happened, and we’d only been at it for minutes when the second plane hit the World Trade Center. This time it was clear that it wasn’t a small plane. It was a large passenger jet, and this was deliberate. The air was sucked out of the room. We were in shock and awe of what was happening in New York.
I called my wife. I’m not sure why. We weren’t in New York City. We weren’t in danger, but it was shocking – bizarre, and I wanted to hear her voice. I wanted to know she was okay, and I wanted to make sure she was aware of what was going on.
We talked for a few minutes. She was as awestruck as I was. Neither of us really knew what to say. She was watching it unfold on NBC. I was scared, but didn’t say it. She was scared – or maybe worried – I could hear it in her voice. I told her I loved her, and told her I would call her back in a bit.
And then less than an hour after I had heard that a small plane had crashed into the WTC, I heard that something had exploded at the Pentagon. It was unimaginable, and I decided that it I wanted to be at home with my family. I needed to be at home with my family. I called my wife from the car on my 30-minute commute home. I told her that I had left work and was on my way home. She said, “Good.”
When I got home, the first thing my wife said to me was, “It fell.” I had no idea what she was talking about. “One of the towers collapsed,” she said as we got into the living room, and I saw with my own eyes the white smoke that engulfed lower Manhattan. I was in disbelief.
I remember being transfixed by the news coverage. I remember the harrowing sound of the scores of emergency personnel beacons that were ringing out through the WTC plaza – each one noting where a first-responder had stopped moving. I remember watching the replay of the collapses over and over. I remember watching the people – covered in dust and debris – evacuating the area. I watched in awe late into the night and again early the next morning. I had never seen anything like it, and I hope to never see anything like it again.
On this tenth anniversary of that horrific day, let us remember the 3,000 that were killed. Let us remember the men and women on the planes that were turned into weapons. Let us remember the men and women in the World Trade Center and Pentagon who were not lucky enough to escape. Let us remember the brave men and women who put fears aside and lost their lives when they rushed to the scene to help those who were unable to help themselves. Let us remember the families who lost so much that day. Let us remember that the victims were of all races, nationalities, and beliefs. Let us remember that the attacks were indiscriminate and that citizens of the world stood with us in our time of need. Let us also remember that these attacks were carried out by religious zealots, whose myopic view and willingness to commit these acts were crafted from a lack of open education, ignorance guided by misinformation, and intolerance. Let us remember that we, in this country, are lucky enough to not be as susceptible to this type of misinformation, ignorance and blind religious zealotry, because this country was founded on and fosters the liberty of the individual to learn as much as possible, to seek and find any and all information, to practice the religion of choice or no religion at all, and to share information and ideas through the spoken and published word. Let us remember that that is what sets us apart from those that have committed and will commit terrorist attacks like those of 9/11. We believe in liberty and justice for all, and as long as we hold true to those foundational principles that have made this country what it is, we will always persevere.
Let us always remember how we were attacked on 9/11. Let us always remember the victims and the heroes of that day, but if we are to “never forget” something, then let us never forget who we are as a people and what we strive to be as a country.