Recently, my hometown newspaper posed several questions for people to answer to fill their "special for the day." They are questions many of us have thought about, but to see them written down seemed to require a response.
Where were you on September Eleventh, 2001, when you heard the news about the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers?
My first vivid memory of that day was my husband coming in to wake me up. It was quite early on the west coast, and he heard incoherent news on the radio as he started the car to leave for work about planes flying into buildings in New York and an attack on the Pentagon. In the twenty years I have known him, I have never heard fear and confusion in his voice - the tone haunts me still. He shook me and said, "The world has gone to hell. They are flying planes in buildings and attacking the Pentagon." I flew out of bed and turned on the television. I watched news readers on various channels being forced to become journalists, and mostly failing.
What did you do? How did you feel that day?
As the news was being broadcast from New York, it was all about New York. I remember yelling hysterically at the TV, "What about the Pentagon?" Even with the tragedy unfolding in front of my eyes, I needed to know about the Pentagon - the strong symbol of our safety and security. I needed to know where the President was, and that he was safe. At some point, the news reader said, "We have a report of a plane crash in Pennsylvania. if it were any other day, that would be a big story, but today, it won't be." How wrong they were.
I spent the entire day in front of the television. I don't remember getting dressed, but I did. When the south tower began to fall, I heard this horrible keening sound, and realized at some point that I was standing up and it was me. I fell to my knees and prayed to God. By the time the north tower fell, I was numb. I paced the living room watching the same pictures unfold over and over. I prayed. I worried. I knew we were at war, but questioned the resolve of the citizens of the nation. And, I waited for my husband to come home. I wanted to be in the same room with the person I love. And, when he did, I collapsed into his arms in a deep and terrible sobbing. I feared for the missing. I prayed for their families. I watched the anguish of the rescuers and the survivors. I prayed. I prayed out loud.
I remember the feeling of calm that came over me that evening when the President addressed the nation. I felt that our government was still in tact and in control.
Did it change your daily routine?
For days afterwards, I wouldn't leave the house. I was afraid something else would happen. I needed to be near the news casts. My husband started calling home several times each day to check in with me - we both needed the comfort of one another throughout the day. But, I also took comfort in the patriotic and united response of the American Spirit.
What kind of effect does it have on your life now, five years later?
What do you think when you look back?
Five years later, it has changed our lives dramatically. We spend much of our time supporting the fine young men and women in the military. We follow the news from their worlds. We know about countries that we barely thought about before, including some that we had never heard of.
We look at life differently, too. We see it as shorter and more precious. We fear for our country because we see the resolve that was evident immediately after the attacks dissolve into a false sense of security. We see people who seem to have forgotten that day. We have gained new friends and lost others because of their lack of resolve. We have watched our political process deteriorate into name calling and vicious attacks, which are incorrectly labeled "patriotic dissent." Dissent is NOT name calling. Dissent is a differing opinion which needs more substance than name calling and attacks.
Five years later, I don't think most Americans remember what they think they learned that day. I believe that they simply want it to all 'go away'. Looking back, I see it as the first salvo of a very long and protracted fight for our right to exist as a society, as a nation. I believe that this will be a long fight without any definitive lines of battle. Osama bin Laden's words, "The difference between us is that you love life, while we love death" will ever haunt me. I believe our military will be stretched to keep us safe and that many of our finest will pay the ultimate price. I fear that they will not get the honor and respect and support that they deserve.
I also remember watching the Trade Towers being built - standing and looking into the pit (all that remains today) with my little brother fascinated by the equipment. I remember the controversy in New York about building them at all.
What will you do on Monday?
Across the internet, chain emails are circulating reminding people to fly their flags on Monday. We fly our flag everyday and have for many years, long before September Eleventh. I urge you all to fly your flags proudly, all of the time, but minimally, fly them on Monday.
We will be paying tribute here to a life lost on September Eleventh. The life of Major Dwayne Williams who was lost at the Pentagon. Please come back and read about this amazing man.
Whatever you do on Monday, please take a moment to say a prayer for those lost on September Eleventh, for their families and friends, for those who were injured that day, and for those who are fighting to protect us from the continued threat today.
May God Bless America.