Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?
For my generation, that question is akin to asking my parents where they were when they got the news JFK was shot.
It was a moment during which time stood still. And during those moments, we have time to take it all in.
This is how I remember it:
I was at work, waiting to go to a staff meeting. Our building was located downtown, not far from a Federal building. Teh staff meeting never happened that morning. What did happen was a relentless search for information. I remember hearing the news and trying to log on to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC. None of them would come up. Then I went down to the library and watched with a growing number of other employees the events unfold on live TV.
Then news came that we were to evacuate the building because authorities couldn’t rule out the nearby Federal building as a potential terrorist target.
I drove home listening to the radio in utter disbelief. When I got home, I turned on CNN and sat on the corner of the foot stool watching. Just watching. I called a few people to see if they were okay and to turn on the TV if they could.
In the ensuing days, my community had its annual late summer/fall festival. The gran parade was subdued. There were more people in line ot give blood than were at the craft booths most times. I was one of those people. I wanted to do something.
There are some commentators who say the country on September 10, 2001 was inherently different from the one that rose out of the World Trade Center rubble on September 12, 2001. I don’t know if that’s true.
What I do think is true is that those of us who had never been through a moment like that woke up after the events that morning turned a crystal-clear blue sky into a dust-filled tangle of bent iron, burning flesh, and utter chaos. I think we appreciate the people who put their lives on the line for others more. I think we took a moment to take stock of the things that are really important in life: family, friends, and freedom. I think we understood for the first time in our lives what sacrifice meant and why it is an integral part of the American story.
I also think that what happened is something that should never, ever be forgotten. I will never forget the events of that day and those that immediately followed and how they impacted me. My hope is that you will never forget, too.