September 11, 2001 – Have We Forgotten?
It was September 11, 2001, and I was 21-years-old. I was so young and carefree and pretty much naive to the insanity in the world around me. I'd grown up in a deeply religious home. Although we attended public school, we were still very sheltered from the horrors of the world.
In early 2001, I stepped out of the sheltered bubble I'd grown up in and moved away from my hometown. I was hosting a morning show at a radio station in Vermont and had just finished reading the news and had gone into commercials. I figured that I had just enough time to run to the kitchen and refill my cup of coffee and run back before the music started up again. Little did I know my life would forever change in the next 90 seconds.
I grabbed my mug and walked to the kitchen and it was there that I heard Don Imus, who was on the kitchen radio, say something about a plane flying into one of the twin towers. I thought he must have been mistaken and if he wasn't that it had to have been an awful and freak accident. It wasn't, but I wasn't fully aware of the enormity of what I'd heard. Not just yet.
After filling up my coffee, I walked back to the studio and nonchalantly turned on the TV figuring if there were anything happening, I'd see it on the news. The commercials were almost done and I put my headphones on and turned on my microphone to talk. And that's when I saw it.
It was the second plane crashing into a tower full of innocent people. And in that moment I understood that there was no mistaking what had happened. It wasn't an accident, it was a deliberate act of terror and we were under attack.
It that single second, every part of my body began to tremble and the tears streamed down my face as I shakily explained to my listeners what I'd just seen. I have cassette tapes from that day as that's how we recorded our shows back then but even to this day, I can't bring myself to listen to them.
The next hours were chaotic as I ran back and forth to the fax machine and news wire, gathering as much information as I could. Listeners with friends and family in New York and Pennsylvania kept calling, looking for information and I felt helpless because I didn't know what to tell them. We were all shocked at what was happening and believed that the world was crumbling in front of our eyes. It was. Nothing would ever be the same, including me. My sheltered bubble had been burst and I'd never see the world that same way again.
Amid the mass chaos, time stood still for all of us that day. Planes smashed into buildings where mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters were working, just trying to earn a living. Almost 3,000 innocent people lost their lives and we couldn't, and still can't wrap our heads around that.
In the days and weeks following September 11, 2001, there was such a sense of responsibility to be kind to others, even to strangers. People were a little less quick to react with a negative word and faster to react with compassion, peace, and grace. Through this unspeakable tragedy, we were unified as one. We were Americans and we stood strong together. Flags were flown proudly on virtually every house, car and business. In the town in which I lived at the time, a flag bigger than any I've ever seen was hung from the tallest buildings over Main Street.
As the pain in our hearts began to heal, we started to find ourselves drifting back to your regular lives- the way we were before September 11th. I actually saw a flyer touting a "September 11th sale" and instantly felt sick to my stomach. How could anyone think that that it's even remotely okay to capitalize on terror and death?
Have we forgotten? I don't think it's fair to say that we've completely forgotten, but I don't think September 11th means what it once did. I think we've become so wrapped up in all of the conspiracy theories and political agendas that we've forgotten that all of us were under attack that day. Lives- innocent ones, were lost. Families were destroyed. The terrorists didn't pick their victims based on political affiliation or religious beliefs. They attacked us all.
September 11th is a day that should be of remembrance, not a day to make a dollar or gain a vote. It should be a day to reflect on those who lost their lives that day and those who've lost their lives as a result in the years since. It should be a day we stop for a minute to teach our children about what happened so that when we're gone, they can share our memories of that day with future generations and make sure that September 11th will never be forgotten. It's the least we can do.