Thirteen years. Thirteen years has elapsed since a horrible day in 2001 when terrorists attacked our country and killed thousands of our fellow citizens.
In thirteen years I’ve added three children to my family of six kids. I’ve watched them be born into a world that was altered by 9/11 and grow up in that same world under the specter of terrorism. I’ve watched my oldest son who was five years old that day move off to college, and become a young man. I’ve watched my other five kids now living in that world altered by terror live their lives in such a way that I wonder if they fully know what happened that day or not?
I was with my boss at the time, Ralph, on a flight bound for Baltimore Washington. We were to speak at a user’s group as the keynote speakers. We got to the airport and got onto the plane, the doors eventually closed, the plane took off, and we were in the air. No problems, normal stuff.
As is my habit, I fall asleep for the first 30 minutes of the flight, and I wasn’t really giving anything much of a thought other than I was looking forward to having crab cakes and some great seafood when we got to Baltimore.
The next thing I know, we are landing at an airport in a very hasty landing. Not knowing what was going on, I turned on my cell phone like I had hundreds of times upon landing. I was a little confused, but still began to get ready to get off the plane because that’s just what you do when you land.
My phone rang, and I saw that it was my wife calling, I answered to a sobbing voice on the other end of the phone speaking in an unintelligible voice. I told her I couldn’t understand her, she said simply “get to a television”. I exited and as we walked out the jet way into the concourse I saw people huddled around one of the televisions.
What I saw didn’t compute, it made no sense, a few minutes earlier an airplane had crashed into a really big building….into the World Trade Center! I was trying to wrap my head around this notion when I hear someone saying that another plane crashed into the other tower! My boss and I look at each other and he said, ‘Time to get the heck out of Dodge”. And we started to head to the baggage claim area where we were told that our bags would be and we decided that we would get our bags, get a car and get as far away from airports as we could.
As we are heading to the baggage area, we hear that another plane has crashed into the Pentagon, and now we are getting really nervous, really antsy, and a little panicked. Bags in hand, I get a call from my friend Darren who tells me that the two towers are burning and that people are fleeing New York on foot and that people were jumping out of the top floors of the towers to their deaths. He says that he will call me if anything else happens that I need to know in the next few minutes.
We make our way to the rental cars. We grab a few people that we find are in need of a ride and are going in our general direction and head out…we say almost nothing to each other.
Darren calls back, he is crying, and says that the first tower has fallen and tells me to get home soon. I hear on the car radio not long after that the second tower has collapsed. My wife calls, tells me the same and is worried that I won’t be able to make it home but tells me to try.
Hours of quiet driving go by. We drop people off near where they are going and eventually get home ourselves. The airport where our cars are parked is closed, so Ralph drops me off at home, and takes the rental car himself. I remember it all, everything….every detail of the day, every feeling of fear, anger, grief, and gratefulness for being alive.
We, my fellow citizens, cannot forget this day. We cannot lose that sense of national unity we shared. It is easy to forget and move on with our lives. I can’t, and won’t forget. I think back to my wife crying, thinking that I might be on a plane that was hijacked too. I think now of friends who lost co-workers in the twin towers, I think of the smell of ground zero a week to the day when Ralph and I found ourselves in New York. The admixture of burning building, smoldering flesh, and smells I can’t describe. I can’t forget the home made posters looking for lost ones, the flowers, and memorials plastered on any available surface in the city, it is still fresh in my mind, and my psyche.
I won’t forget this, and yet so many have. Yes we go on with our lives, we need to go on with our lives. We need to live again. I have seen many new things come into my own life and live on, but, I have not forgotten, and neither should you.
Today I remember September 11, 2001. I remember the men and women who were murdered that day in the worst terror attack on our country. I remember the hundreds of first responders who lost their lives without even thinking about the danger. I remember the kids who have no mom or dad because of that attack. Think about the moms and dads who buried children lost. I remember…
This is my story. What do you remember of this fateful day? What is your story?