Ten years. And yet, just yesterday, it seems, that the world heard the shocking news that our nation was systematically being attacked. I’m sure anyone over the age of ten remembers where they were when they first heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I had just finished drying my hair when the radio announcer told of the “accident.” It looked, he thought from his first glances, that it was a small commuter jet. By the time I arrived in the bedroom and turned on our television images of the second plane hitting the Trade Center were on the screen. Only I didn’t know it was a second plane. I figured they had somehow captured the first plane’s hit and were replaying it. The whole scenario still seems unreal somehow; unless of course, it was your family member, friend, co-worker, or city that got hit.
It seemed strangely unnerving, that life in Minnesota was going on as usual. That morning I left the house and picked up my friend’s dad to take him for a radiation treatment in St. Paul. As he received his treatment, I sat in the waiting room hearing more news. Two more planes had crashed – all others had been ordered to land at the nearest airport. He and I, of course, talked about it on the way home though I’m sure I had nothing profound to say.
I arrived back at my house to a phone call from my dad – knowing I’d be safe, but wanting to hear for himself. He was actually on a plane in California, buckled in and ready to take-off, when everyone was asked to return to the terminal and then out of the building. My brother, too, had recently landed in Salt Lake City where he was to meet up with my dad to fly out east for a golf tournament. At that moment, on the phone with my dad, it all seemed too much. I lost it.
At some point I checked in with my own kids. Adam was at college – I assumed he was safe. Scott was in high school – not much danger there; at least not from suicidal terrorists. And Paul, well that was another story. He is a pilot and I never really know where he is unless I’m with him. Thankfully, he wasn’t flying on that fateful day.
I also called my nephew to wish him a “Happy 3rd Birthday.” Like I said, life seemed unnervingly normal.
I had it easy on September 11, 2001; I knew, or could find out quickly, that my family was safe. For others, there would be waiting; some would wait for hours, some for days and others for weeks. And many, too many, would never see their family members, or friends, again.
There are two images from 9/11 that will forever stick in my mind. Of the thousands of images that have been shown over the years, I find it odd that only two have emblazoned themselves into my brain. The first image is that of President George Bush sitting in the classroom reading to a room full of students and hearing the news from an aide. What should have been a fun morning for the president quickly turned into a nightmare. I’ve often wondered how the horror of that moment was explained to those young students upon President Bush’s quick exit.
The second image that stays with me is of a man I’ll never know, running for his life away from the Trade Center, so covered in ashes that he was nearly unrecognizable. The terror on his face is one I hope never to know.
I’m sure you have your own memories from that Tuesday morning. It’s a day that changed the world and how we function in it. It was a day filled with loss. But, it was also a day when heroes were born; strangers became friends and neighbors helped neighbors; people discovered a strength they never knew they had, and we all realized that regardless of income levels, race, or status, every person is important. It’s a lesson I hope we don’t forget, but fear we already have.
To those who lost family or friends ten years ago my heart still hurts for you. I am praying today for your hearts. To those who still live with nightmares, I pray for you, too. And for those who, like me, were relatively unscathed that day, I pray we’ll never forget.