Archive | September, 2012

9/11 – What I Will Never Forget

11 Sep

September 11, 2001…Everywhere you look you see: “I Will Not Forget.”

Just about everyone has a remembrance, about where they were, or what they were doing that morning. The day the world stopped turning. The stories start off differently, then become sadly similar when we reach the parts where we share our fear, horror, heartbreak…and then our pride, patriotism, and the way we celebrated our humanity. The stories branch off in the years that followed, becoming as diverse and varied as our individual experiences and perceptions.

I can only share what I will not forget:

I will not forget turning on the “Today” show, and thinking that I was viewing a fire, or a gas leak explosion of some sort, as smoke billowed out of the World Trade Center…and I will not forget the moment of slow understanding as I watched a plane crash into the other tower. Thousands of people lost more than I did on that day; all I lost was my ignorance of our nation’s vulnerability.

I will not forget the chill that ran up my spine when it occurred to me that my sister was on one of those West Coast-bound flights just 24 hours before…had the terrorists chosen Monday instead of Tuesday, her name would be among the nearly 3,000 spoken solemnly every year, on this day.

I will not forget one single image from that day, replayed over and over for all the world to see in the days, months, and years afterward. Survivors covered in ash…rescue workers running to the scene, not away…people jumping to their deaths. I will not forget wondering about the horrific last moments of the lives of so many people, how indescribably awful it must have been, if deciding to jump was preferable to what was about to happen. With every televised replay, I wondered if there was a wife somewhere who recognized her husband sailing through the air, because it was the shirt she’d given him for his birthday. Eyewitnesses described the “thumps” – and the chilling realization that each “thump” was the sound of a human being hitting the ground.

I can’t ever forget the phone calls. There were so many…and how, through them, we could easily hear when irritation and confusion at an interrupted workday turned to fear and horrified understanding. Early messages were to reassure family and friends that their loved ones were okay; not long after, hundreds of victims were ¬†frantically reaching out, trying to get through, with one unified message – “I just wanted to hear you one more time, and to tell you I love you.”

I will never forget the inarguable acts of bravery and heroism. Not just a handful, but hundreds. A group of people on a plane, deciding that it was worth a shot to fight back. Firefighters who went up, up into a building that, from professional experience, they must have known would not be standing very much longer. People helping others find a way out, helping those who were hurt, even if it slowed their own escape. Even the tiniest acts of unselfishness – people in the towers, who had finally found a working phone line, who gave up their precious last moments with someone they loved, so that the person standing next to them might have a turn to do the same. I don’t know that I could have been that brave.

I will never forget.

And I will never forget a city, and a nation, that pulled together in our worst time, and how the very best of both our human and our American qualities were felt deeply in our own hearts, and shone out for the whole world to see. We were a kinder, gentler nation…for a time. I will never forget that time.

But I will also never forget how quickly that swell of American pride that lifted us all and helped us begin healing became a wave of prejudice and intolerance, sweeping over and drowning anyone who dared speak with a voice of peace or reason. An atmosphere of our own extremism rose from the ashes of 9/11, and it became “unpatriotic” to oppose the “War On Terror” – trillions of dollars spent, adding nearly 50,000 American names (civilian and military) to the list of dead, missing, or wounded.

We shouldn’t forget that.

I will never forget that while we are still reeling from one vile, disgusting act of terrorism committed on our soil, that there are regions in the world where this kind of violence is a daily way of life. There are cities that have air raid sirens – a part of an everyday routine that is completely unfamiliar to me, because I live in the United States. I don’t have to live in fear for my life every day; even in our post 9/11 nation, we have regained some sense of security. It just doesn’t happen HERE. But I won’t forget that it does happen. Every day. Somewhere.

We should never forget that. It is one of the reasons we are strong and proud to live here, and not somewhere else.

I stand with every person who salutes our victims and our heroes, both on that terrible day 11 years ago, and all the days since. I hope our love and support is felt by their family and friends, and that they know America is behind them, always.

I hope they know that we will never forget.