I had another blog post ready to go for today. But I couldn’t help remembering 9-11, and it didn’t seem right to post about something else on this day.
Sixteen years have passed, but I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the first reports of terror attacks. I remember feeling fear – the plane in PA was just starting to be talked about. My next memory was overwhelming sorrow. I thought about how many people would be affected by the attacks. So many people. The sadness was heavy.
I’ll never forget the plane impacting with the second tower, the faces of civilians and first responders as they came to grips with what was happening, and then the collapse of the towers. It was truly unbelievable.
As the day wore on, the saddest sights to me were the pictures of ER personnel waiting outside hospitals to care for the expected thousands of victims. But they never came. ERs remained quiet. Blood donations went into blood banks for future needs. There were few victims that made it to a hospital. Most victims were swallowed up in the towers, becoming part of the dust. It was heartbreaking.
Being born after the JFK assassination, I didn’t have that frame of reference when everyone talked about knowing where they were when they heard the news. Now I did. 9-11 was my generation’s JFK. I’m sure it will remain with me all of my life. I work with teens who were born after 9-11-01. Like the generation before me, It seems so strange that they didn’t experience it. Everything that it changed is normal to them–taking your shoes off at the airport, leaving liquids behind, having a Department of Homeland Security, and the war on terror.
I had to go to work that afternoon. That’s when I remember the first feelings of American pride. As I drove just over an hour, through small towns, I noticed that almost every house had an American flag hanging outside. They weren’t there the day before. It was the beginning of American’s coming together in the face of tragedy. I choked up at the symbol of all Americans connecting to one another and offering support.
I can’t help but think of the difference in how the picture of the American flag being raised by first responders over the rubble of the world trade center united a nation, but how divisive it is now just being unfurled at a football game. Our memories are not long enough.
This week we have faced two major hurricanes with widespread devastation. And just like the terror attacks, Americans are showing their love for one another in caring for each other’s needs. It is a shame that sometimes it takes a catastrophe for people to lay aside their political, racial, economic, and cultural differences to help a fellow American in need.
I wish we would remember they way we felt on 9-11 every day and not just for a short time on the anniversary. What a difference that would make in how we treat one another. “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:2-4 NASB)