A September like no other
The morning of September 11, 2001, was like most September mornings across the country. Summer officially ended, the days getting cooler, and children were back in school. Only on this morning the United States would suffer the largest terror attack claiming approximately 3000 lives. This event would change lives forever.
The shock and devastation the United States experienced that day was beyond imagination. As the federal government responded, it would be the first time in the history of aviation in the United States that civilian aircraft were grounded from coast to coast. The chaos at ground zero in New York froze an entire nation bringing the day to day activities to a standstill.
Television and radio were buzzing with news of the attack, and the images coming across our televisions left us in disbelief. Seeing large commercial passenger aircraft deliberately fly into the World Trade Center buildings played out like a scene from a movie. However, there was more to come over the next hour that would be just as shocking.
As American’s across the country watched, glued to their televisions, we saw the smoking Twin Towers collapse in real time. First one tower then the next, falling as if one could not survive without the other. With real time coverage, the reality that we were watching the death of thousands of people was unfathomable at the time; but it was not over yet.
Like salt on an open wound, news of another airplane crashing into the Pentagon flashed across the air waves. By this time word was spreading of additional aircraft unaccounted for and not responding to radio calls. Military fighter planes were in the air looking for targets, and we all feared there was more to come. With the second attack on the Pentagon, it paralyzed the country. Then news of the crash in Pennsylvania, no one knew why, no one knew if it was shot down. Only later would we hear of the heroic story of the passengers on United Airlines flight 93 taking action that saved lives, at the expense of their own.
In the wake of it all
When the attack itself was over, America would still be paralyzed for days after. In New York city, emergency crews were searching for survivors in the debris of the fallen Twin Towers. As the haze and smoke cleared America began to pull together supporting the victims, first responders, and New York city. News reports would vary widely for some time before a clear picture of the events became known. And, for a time a nation would mourn, clean up the aftermath, and begin the long road to healing.
Sixteen years have passed, and for those of us who witnessed the events of September 11, 2001, we will never forget. The 9/11 terror attack was surreal, the fear that terrorism was on our doorstep become real for everyone, all at once. America quickly rose out of the ashes of this terrible event to become wiser, stronger, and unified. We showed terrorism and the world the resolve, resilience, and power of the United States of America.
Now it is time to remember, so we don’t fall into forgetful complacency induced by time. It is also a time to remind ourselves we are all one people, everywhere on this great big world, and that peace is possible. The best way to defeat terrorism, everywhere, is to stop looking at each other like we are different and realize all our hearts beat the same.