It’s September 11th.
There are few days in my lifetime that hold enough historical significance that I can remember exactly what I was doing, and can recall most every detail. The day Reagan was shot and the day the Space Shuttle Challenger expoded are two that come immediately to mind. The other is, of course, September 11th, 2001. Everyone old enough to know what was going on has a memory of that day, everyone has a story about what they were doing that day and everyone was affected in some way by the events of that day. I am no different.
That morning I was off from work and was preparing to take Jacob to a nuclear study on his kidneys at Egleston Children’s Hospital in downtown Atlanta when I saw the footage of the 1st plane hitting the World Trade Center during a morning news show. I was interested but only mildly until minutes later the 2nd plane hit. I still recall the confusion among the news reporters and the bizarre mixture of emotion I felt watching it and listening to their hysteria. My mother came over because she was going with me to Atlanta and we decided that whatever was going on would not prevent Jacob’s test.
As we pulled onto the highway, about 3 miles from my home with my infant son strapped in his carseat we heard on the radio that the 1st tower had collapsed. That sickened feeling is easy to remember because it is not far from me even now as I recount this story. Then a few more miles down the road, the radio was again reporting dreadful news – the other tower was down. How could that be? What in the world was going on? Should we keep going or turn back? Was there more than what we were hearing? Was this an attack on America like was being implied? Was NY the only target? What about Atlanta where we were heading? What about Ft Benning, home of the Infantry, (in Columbus) where we were leaving?
We decided to go on to the hospital and once there spent each of the many hours waiting for the procedure fixed to the television. Of course, we learned of the Pentagon and the Philadelphia field and watched countless horrible images of people screaming in the streets, rescue workers covered in soot, regular people risking their lives to save others. We listened to rumors that the Center for Disease Control across the street was a potential target and waited a few extra hours because the main rode between the hospital and the CDC was temporarily closed. We managed to get Jacob’s procedure done and headed home sad, angry and still a little confused.
It wasn’t until much later that we understood the actual extent of the tragedy. The lives lost, the stories told by the survivors, the messages left by victims on home answering machines, the hopeful photos posted on a wall by loved ones, the images burned forever in my brain of people jumping from the windows of a fire engulfed building, feeling that was their only option. The 24 hour news coverage that carried 24 hours of horror day after day after day.
I did not personally know anyone who was lost in that tragedy, but I grieved nonetheless. And I was certainly not alone in that grief, I was joined by millions. I still grieve that awful day. I don’t live in fear, but I recall the emotion of September 2001 and I still bristle with anger, cry tears of sorrow, and swell with pride in my country when I allow those emotions to surface. And on this day especially I honor heroes, respect the lost and mourn with loved ones. I look at my precious family and thank God that we are safe today. I also pray for His protection tomorrow and rejoice that He has us in His hand always.