Written 9/11/2015(edited 2017)
Do you remember the day the world almost literally stopped turning or have you forgotten? I know I remember that day almost like it was yesterday. That was the day that 2,996 people were killed, these deaths include 265 on the four planes, 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon. There were also more than 6,000 other people were injured. This heinous act brought people not only in New York City to their knees but the entire country and even some parts of the world. This atrocity made heroes out of ordinary people and drew a city and the surrounding areas people together, most of whom were total strangers.
It was also the day that two planes flew into the twin towers and changed the NYC skyline forever. A third plane flew into the Pentagon and another crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania despite the hostages taking it back over from their hijackers. Had those heroic passengers not overpowered their hijackers, that plane would’ve probably flown into the White House.
The date was September 11, 2001. It was a crisp autumn morning. A day I will never forget. I remember I was working at our local animal shelter. My co worker and I had the radio on while she cleaned the dog kennels and I cleaned the cat section. While I was cleaning one of the cages, I heard a commotion on the radio but brushed it off. I had to keep on my schedule to get my work done on time.
The next thing I knew my coworker came to me and asked if I’d heard about a plane crashing into a building in New York City. We couldn’t believe that the pilot of that plane was so blind that they couldn’t see 2 large skyscrapers in front of him. Oddly enough, my intuition told me that terrorists were involved but I brushed it off. It was the North Tower of the iconic Twin Towers that was struck. While we were chatting and speculating if it was a joke or if it was a small Cessna plane or a large passenger jet we got our answer. It was a large passenger airliner.
As we listened to the news broadcasts and speculated the reasons, a 2nd passenger airliner flew into the South Tower. Now my thoughts became my words and my words turned into my worst fears. We each expressed thoughts of terrorism as we went back to our duties. A little while later a 3rd plane had flown into the Pentagon and the 4th into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. After that, the rest of my work day is a bit blurred. I know our staff meeting was canceled and we didn’t open our doors to the public that day. We made sure all the animals were clean, fed and watered then our director sent us home.
When I got home that afternoon I immediately went to my best friends house. There I found out all of the planes in the entire country were grounded to make sure that there were no more planes that were hijacked by terrorists and flying in the air. Living just a few miles from our little airport, not hearing planes flying overhead was very eerie. I also discovered that using a cell phone was an effort in futility because all of the cell phone towers we’re inundated with calls.
Later that evening my friend who lived around the corner from me came to my place. We lit a bunch of white candles in the form of a cross in my front yard and we said a prayer or two. It was our way of having a candlelight vigil. Although we lived roughly 393 miles from where the Twin Towers fell, about 230 miles from the field in Pennsylvania and about 323 miles from the Pentagon we felt like the world as we knew it was coming to an end in our lifetime. Maybe not that day or even that week, but we feared we would see it.
So why do we say “We shall never forget?” when many of us want to do just that…forget it? Why do we rehash those events year after year since 2001? Why do we have Patriots Day? Yes, it was one of this country’s darkest days, but we should not, we cannot, we must not forget or deny what happened. I guess you could say it’s similar to Memorial Day, Veterans Day, even the Fourth of July. We do it to remember and honor those who died just going to work that day and the heroes of that day. Heroes like the first responders and every day, ordinary people who became heroes. These are the people who rushed into or stayed in the buildings to help the wounded and dying as well as those who took the plane back before crashing in the field.
I am reminded of a quote I’ve written about before, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” by George Santayana. It means exactly as it says. If we don’t remember this day nearly 20yrs ago, the same thing will happen again. Probably not in the same way but if you look back in time at past events you’ll notice some similarities.
With all the unrest in our world today one can’t help but wonder if or when something like this or worse will happen again. At one time, this unrest was confined to the Middle East but with history unfolding as it has, the threat of violence comparable to the magnitude of that day is very real. Perhaps even more real than ever before.
As we fight over historical monuments and statues we must remember why some of them were erected. Yes, our Founding Fathers owned slaves, but their memories should not be of solely that sad yet true fact of this country’s history. Yes, owning slaves was considered ok in that time and no it’s not right by today’s standards. However these people were heroes in one way or another. They built or shaped this country and ensured that we would be a free society long after they were gone from this Earth. It’s time to heal the wounds and forgive those who’ve hurt us and our ancestors. Instead of trying to erase the past, learn from those wrongs and teach the children what not to do.
Thought for the day: Today, if I could request a couple small favors… First, teach the young ones what today is all about. Also stop what you’re doing at any one of or all of the following times and say a prayer, light some candles, whatever feels right. Acknowledge the fallen, give thanks to our heroes and pray for our leaders, etc. The times of the crashes are 8:46am, 9:03am, 9:37am and 10:07am. We can never forget.
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