This picture symbolizes hope…even in the midst of the worst times the sun will eventually find a way to shine through.
The day is here and we all know what that means.
For my grandparents it was Pearl Harbor.
For my parents it was the Assassination of President Kennedy followed by the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.
For us it was September 11th 2011. It was the day from which our lives would never be the same again. It would change our suspicions, completely change travel, and it would give us our generation’s collective story of mourning-the story that each of us can recall so vividly about that gut wrenching day that changed everything.
It was the September after I graduated from Hampton University. I hadn’t stepped foot in the real world yet. I had thoroughly enjoyed that summer and I was preparing to start my job at Accenture on September 23rd. The only thing that was on my mind was to soak up the dwindling days of my pre-corporate America life.
I woke up that day and as I hear countless people recall, it was beautiful. It sounds like such a cliché but it was a strikingly beautiful day. The sky was a memorable blue, there were hardly any clouds to be found and the temperature was perfect. I was preparing to leave the house for an appointment and I turned on the TV to see the breaking news coverage that a plane had somehow flown directly into one of the towers. I quickly called one of my girlfriend’s that worked for Time Warner in Midtown. She told me that folks in her building had gone to a higher floor to watch the spectacle unfold.
It was so eerie to watch the smoke billowing from the tower and to have no information as to how this could have happened. No plausible factors made sense – there was no fog so it had to have been a terrible mistake…we were all gripped to the TV.
I sat and watched and waited. Not long after I got off the phone with my friend my dad walked in the house with his army fatigues and combat boots. He had been on duty for a number of days at Walter Reed and had driven home that morning with the stereo on to relax his mind. He walked in the house, stopped in the doorway and I said
“did you hear that a plane hit the World Trade Center?”
He didn’t believe me… He walked closer to the TV and saw the shocking image and in that instant as he walked closer we both watched as the second plane hit.
And in an instant life as we knew it changed.
We can all so vividly remember the collective pain and fear that we felt as terror spread to Pennsylvania and Washington DC. As we watched the unimaginable we found it hard to breathe. I distinctly remember being so glued to the news coverage – watching the buildings falls, seeing the looks of desperation on peoples faces, waiting for the hoards of survivors that would surely come…and at some point saying to myself, how will we get through this? How can we be expected to go on?
They say that God doesn’t put any more on you than you can bear but that belief seems menacing during times that were as frightful and as savage as September 11th, 2001.
I am absolutely amazed at what we as humans can experience and find the courage to live through and triumph over. We moved forward because we had no other choice.
I am grateful to have come of age in a pre 9-11 world. I was 22 when 19 terrorists savagely murdered 3,000 people. I remember when their savagery was not a part of my psyche. I flew out of National Airport recently and had the pleasure of walking though the old terminal. The fond memories that came to mind of flying out of National airport in the 80s — no security checks, no having to leave your loved ones at the gate — were met with the stark reality of what it means to fly today.
Every generation has a painful collective moment that is so hurtful and so unspeakable that it changes all forever – 9-11 is ours. We know exactly where we were. We can instantly transport ourselves to the pain that coursed through our bodies. And we know that in that instant we were all changed forever. We were made a bit more battle-ready. We were put on guard. We would know for the rest of our lives the true treachery that human beings were capable of and for the rest of our lives we will never be able to take something as simple as boarding a plane for granted.
As we awake to the 10th anniversary of 9-11 I mourn the innocents who lost their lives. I weep for the families that lost loved ones. I stand in sheer awe of the passengers of flight 93, passengers that were able to speak with their loved ones on the phone and that knew the fate that was planned for them—regardless of their fear they fought. They fought until the very end.
I don’t want to be cavalier about standing up to terrorists. But I will say that the members of flight 93 left an example for us all and sent a message to the world. It may have been easy for terrorists to have snuck up on a country while its back was turned (we have a name for people that decide to attack when one’s back is turned) but once the evil was known a stand was taken and evil was met with sheer courage.
In the incredibly long shadow of 9-11 I am grateful for courage. I am proud of how far we have come. And I pray that we not lose sight of the collective vigilance that is needed in this post 9-11 world.