There are few moments in history that we are privy too that will haunt us for the rest of our lives. Growing up I heard stories from the generation before mine as to where they were and what they were doing at the moment John F. Kennedy was shot. My dad was fifteen that day, my mother thirteen. Both talked about sitting in a classroom when it occurred, how they found out, and the world’s reaction to the news. For my generation, our moment was September 11, 2001.
It was a typical sunny, humid, and clear Tuesday morning in September in the Indiana. I was up early and got two of my children ready for school. My son was in the third grade, my oldest daughter was in Kindergarten. I walked with them and several of their friends, along with my youngest daughter, who was a month shy of her fifth birthday, the mile trot to Brown Elementary School. After my youngest and I returned home, she went out front to play with a couple other kids in our neighborhood while I began cleaning and doing laundry.
As I vacuumed the family room, the Today Show was airing on my television. I looked over and saw the smoke pouring from the first tower and turned off the vacuum to see what had happened. Several minutes later, the entire world watched live as a commercial jet crashed into the second tower. I remember physically jumping just a bit and that quick inhalation of air. I was completely stunned. Seconds later, my neighbor knocked on my screen front door, walked right on it, just as stunned as I was.
We watched, completely shocked and terrified, utterly numb and waited. It wasn’t long before news started pouring in, all air travel across the country was immediately grounded, tunnels and bridges throughout New York were closed, mentions of possible other ‘targets’ were noted. Lower Manhattan had turned into a war zone. Then the Pentagon was hit. The world felt surreal. This sort of thing did not happen in America. No one could believe it.
Within minutes a half a dozen moms gathered around my television while our younger children played outside. We tried to keep them pacified, not wanting their young and innocent eyes and ears to witness the horror we were watching unfold. Then the local news broke in briefly informing us that all state and federal government offices locally and nationally were shut-down and evacuated immediately, all schools were on lock-down and they didn’t have an estimated time that our children would be released, and our state/country was placed on high alert. My stomach was in a knot and I felt sick. My friend reached for her cell and dialed the elementary school…the line was busy. She repeatedly hit redial for the next thirty minutes only to be told that; ‘No, you can’t pick up your child. We are not allowed to release anyone at this time and no, we have no idea when we will be’. Disheartened, we all stared at the television and watched the pandemonium ripping through lower Manhattan, New York as the towers fell shortly thereafter. I remember periodically going outside for some air and just to hug my youngest child. My heart consumed with grief over the images that kept playing over and over again in my mind.
America had been purposely and viciously attacked. By whom, we still weren’t sure. The carnage and aftermath of it, however was something no one could have imagined in their worst nightmare. Not since the War of 1812 had America suffered an attack on our soil. I, like most of the world, watched intensely and broken hearted for the rest of the day to the fallout. And like most Americans, once the initial shock wore off and the full measure of their destruction were known and felt, I wanted those responsible to pay and pay dearly for what they had done.
Since that day personal accounts from those on or at ground zero have been recounted. Plus, those heroic individuals…firefighters, law enforcement officers, and medical personal who spent countless hours and risked their lives, and in some cases, gave their lives, to help those in need will never been the same. Countless lives were forever changed and some destroyed because of reckless and senseless hate. Even now, the personal footage from those that were there looks as if it were created by some special effects team in Hollywood. It is that unbelievable. It never fails to make me cry.
Thirteen years later, the war in the Middle East rages on. The Taliban has been hunted down by our troops, their leader, Osama Bin Laden, finally eliminated. But has anything truly changed…no, unfortunately not. Do I understand it all? No, I certainly don’t. What I do know is that at this moment, my son who was only in the third grade when this attack occurred is now over in the Middle East defending our country. And the year before that, my nephew who is the same age as my son was there for the same reason. I, like countless other mothers, have watched our children deploy to defend our freedom and our way of life. I am very proud of each and every one of our soldiers. They, like all American Veterans, are truly heroes for what they have done and what they are doing so we can sleep a little better at night.
My heart goes out to every person who was there on that fateful day and those who were affected by the aftermath. I believe Toby Keith’s song, Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (An Angry American) truly encapsulated the belief and feelings of the majority of Americans after September 11, 2001 and the War on Terrorism were declared. On this day of remembrance, please take a moment to think about those who were lost, those who endured and those who defend our country, keep them in your prayers, and if you should happen to see a soldier or Veteran, firefighter or law enforcement officer out and about today…or any day for that matter, take a moment to shake their hand and thank them for all they have done for our country! They truly deserve it…