Today is the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. This was one of those indelible moments in history, one of those times where you always remember where you were or what you were doing when it happened. A watershed moment in infamy, as well as history, like the Kennedy assassination, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, or Pearl Harbor. It's a time in your life that will inevitably be carried with you, a reminder of loss, of fear, of tragedy, and ultimately of hope.
I know exactly where I was when the news first broke. Asleep. My old room mate bounded into my room and told me to wake up and said that America was under attack. There was so many things that we didn't know in those early days and hours. I remember groggily thinking that he was crazy but I shuffled out of bed and out towards the TV. I remember watching the news footage, at the time I had awoken, the first tower was the only one that had been hit. We watched with horror when the second one fell. The worry and panic and fear of the unknown knowing that another airliner had crashed into the Pentagon. I'll never forget the footage that I saw on TV that day, the smoke, the fires, the fear. Watching people leap from buildings to their deaths.
I had to go to work that day at noon. I know I dressed hurriedly to watch the news reports and drove to work listening to the news on the radio. Every station was covering it. I'm not sure we served a single customer that day or did any work at all really (though I'm sure we did) I just remember being rooted to the little TV feed we had in the store. It wasn't even a real TV, just a digital display that fed news bits to customers waiting in line. We turned on the radio and watched those news bits for information eagerly, wanting to know more about what had happened. I know my team at the store was scared and I remember saying a lot of things that at the time I didn't feel, telling them to stay positive and be hopeful and that everything was okay, when secretly I was afraid we were headed towards World War 3.
For me though, the one thing I remember most about 9/11 wasn't the acts of terrorism (though I'll never forget those) it was really the days and weeks after the attacks that stick with me. Never before had I felt such a sense of pride or patriotism so prevalent in this country. The whole nation had bonded together and it felt like there was nothing we couldn't do, no task to great. For the first time in my my life I understood the cost of freedom and the price of liberty. I imagine it's a lot like how people felt when Pearl Harbor was attacked. It was a singular act that united a nation.
Even in the trailing months and years as the fervor of patriotism gave way to the usually cynicism of politics, I never forgot those moments. In 2006 I got the chance to go to Shanksville, Pennsylvania a place important in the memories of 9/11 that never gets quite the same reverence that Ground Zero did. Shanksville is the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93, the 4th plane that was hijacked that day. The passengers aboard the plane had learned what had happened on their cell phones, about the towers and the suicide bombings, and they overpowered the hijackers and crashed the plane. For me this was always a moment that struck me during this time. This group of strangers came together to save people. While I am sure that they didn't envision crashing the plane as the inevitable outcome, they had to know what would happen when they attacked. It became to me a message of self sacrifice and of unequivocal hope to me.
To overlook the crash site and to see the memorial that people had erected themselves, messages written down to family members lost and little alters erected, it was a powerful experience. I never got to see Ground Zero in my one day in New York City, the weather was so bad it prevented us from doing any of the things I wanted to do. To be able to see this moment from such a pivotal event in my lifetime was awe inspiring and something that I will never forget. It's really the first time I understood truly what sacrifice meant. Of what freedom and hope and liberty really cost.
Today is the day where I remember what people have given up in the name of freedom. I salute those that serve, those who have served, and those who have sacrificed so that i may know true freedom. Thank you all.
End of Line.