Note: I wrote this on the 9th Anniversary of 9/11. I’ve added a few lines but the sentiments, sorrows, and hopes remain unchanged. As we remember that horrific time today, let us not forget to honor those memories by going forward with our lives with a strong commitment to each other, no exclusions.
And let us not forget the heroic first responders: the first eyes to see the horrors of any situation; the first hands to take action in the personal and physical devastation[ and the first hearts and minds to begin the healing process for the victims and for those of us who ache for them. Last year at this time, Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) was walking the halls of Congress to get Congress to wake up and support first responders; to get federal, state, and city governments to stop using first responders as a budget item to be cut or bargained with; and to make sure that first responders never have to fear a lack of personal care in the future as they protect all of us in the present.
9/11 is a day that no one will forget. Not just for the sadness and horror visited upon the US and NYC, Shanksville PA, and the Pentagon, but for the “frozen in time” memories and reactions that all of us now have, whether personally impacted or not
I was off work that day, in the bedroom getting dressed. I turned the TV on and saw that Peter Jennings was on air. The video was a very grainy shot of a plane hitting the first tower. I will confess that I thought I was seeing a news feature about a “what if this happened” moment. It looked Hollywood, unreal, unimaginable.
It took a few minutes to realize that something really horrible had happened, but still, it did not sink in.
Moving downstairs, I turned on the TV and watched as the picture became clearer, even if what was actually happening was not. On the TV, I saw the second plane hit. This was much clearer. I saw some people jumping, not for their lives but to choose the way they would leave this earth, bravely. I saw the South Tower start to crumble, and just a minute before it happened, there was no doubt that it was going to fall.
It was inconceivable what was happening, yet it was happening. Still a mass of confusion, I left to pick up my nephew and niece from their schools. The confusion there was the same mix of sadness, tears, and wondering.
I checked with my video store at 4th And South, knowing that they did not deserve to be alone at this time. Since it was so close to Independence Hall, the rumors were flying of a plane heading towards there.
I checked with the main office, and was surprised that most of them had gone home without notifying the stores about how to proceed. We were on our own amid the confusion, just as millions of our neighbors were.
I called the then General Manager and screamed at her (she is no longer there). I could not believe, on this exceptionally frightening day, that the stores were seemingly abandoned with the wild fears that were running rampant. Almost every other business closed that day. At the store level, we decided that we could help in another way, a way to help be there for comfort and escape.
In retrospect, my staff that day was also valuable, because while they were scared, they chose to stay there, and by doing so, became a place for the neighbors and customers to escape from the horror for a while, if not to get a DVD, then at least to have someone to talk with and cry to. I truly appreciated my staff that day.
You know how the rest unfolds. The terrorists weren’t after landmarks of patriotism, they were after the nerve centers of business, defense, and executive powers of the US. They wanted to cripple these things, not just piss us off.
We finally killed Bin Laden in 2010. We continue to fight wars that claim the lives of many of our bravest and seem to have no end and , at times, no continuing purpose. We still live in fear, both real and manufactured, of both dangers from without and dangers from within.
And a few have used 9/11 as political hellfire, to tarnish entire cultures without regard to what our country truly stands for.
However, we became one nation that day and remained that way for a while. No matter what political party, religion, state, or race, we all became one for a while. While it dealt a terrible toll on life, it did not accomplish what they truly wanted.
We are still a nation and always will be. We stand for each other and we stand for America. We stand for humanity.
The rest is not history, it will forever be a part of us.
The lasting memory that I have is of a young man, jumping from the WTC, his tie fluttering in the wind, his dress shoes still on, and the thought that he chose the way he would leave. It was not an act of fear, it was an act of independence, and that is what the terrorists could not take from us.
9/11 is a time of remembrance, a time of reflection, a time of rebuilding, a time of renewed determination and confidence,…
…a time of all of us.
Bless all on 9/11. And every day of every year.