What is it about September 11th that makes us feel the way we do. This day has a Christmas feel to it. You start to think about it in the days leading up to it. On September 10th you realize exactly what is coming up the next day. And if you are awake at midnight you start to feel it. In your stomach and through the chills that run throughout your body.
Never Forget. How could we? Ask any person old enough to remember and they can tell you exactly where they were, who they were with and how they felt that day and the few days that followed.
As I was driving my 10 year old stepson to school this morning I noticed a boy about the same age waiting at his bus stop. He had his hand over his heart as if he were saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Then I noticed the time, 8:46. Thirteen years to the exact moment that the North Tower was struck. Thirteen years after the exact moment our lives changed.
I couldn’t hold back tears as I drove into work thinking about the next few hours of that gorgeous Tuesday morning in New York. What would soon turn into a smoke and dust filled war zone right in the middle of the greatest city in the world. So I started thinking, what is it about this day that gets us all emotional? Why does this day have such an effect on us compared to some of the other memorable days in our history?
Is it because it happened on our soil?
We had not had an attack on American soil of this magnitude in close to 60 years. It was our generation’s Pearl Harbor. And this time it happened in New York. Our best city. And in Washington D.C. Our capital! We have seen video of soldiers in Vietnam and clips of D Day. All war is horrific. But to witness, firsthand in real time, an attack on American soil really makes you feel like you are part of it.
Is it because it involved innocent civilians?
People doing what they did every day of their lives were involved. Businessmen and women flying to meetings. Families going on vacations. Workers of all types walking into the Towers, taking the elevator up to their floors. In the same way they have done for years.
Is it because we could watch and listen to the events unfold?
Crystal clear video captured two separate planes flying into first the North Tower and then, second, the South Tower. And then crystal clear video captured the collapse of first the South Tower and then, second, the North Tower.
That morning, I had to leave for work around 9:45 so I found National coverage on the radio as I drove in. There were reports of people on top of the South Tower with a helicopter circling above trying to land on the roof. The smoke was so intense that it made it impossible. I was thinking how on Earth are they going to get these people off the roof?
And then just a few minutes before 10:00 the South Tower collapsed. Even now as I type the words I feel pain and sorrow. That is the most memorable moment of the day for me. And I will never forget.
Is it because our lives changed forever?
They were. Our lives would never be the same. We lost certain rights and privileges that we once had. But we also gained something. An extreme reminder of what it is to be a American. To be blessed to live in the greatest country in the world. More flags have flown since that dreadful day than ever before. For the first time in a long time, we were all proud to be Americans.
Is it because of the stories of heroes?
First responders rushing up the stairs through the chaos with no concern over the ridiculous danger that waited ahead. Firefighters and police officers helping as many people as possible. Who knows how many lives were saved by New York’s finest. Digging through shards of glass and rubble searching for any survivors the night of 11th and in the days that followed. These people redefined the word hero.
And then there was the passengers on Flight 93. The heroes on this plane learned about the crashes at the Twin Towers and The Pentagon and decided to take matters into their own hands. Rushing the cockpit and deliberately crashing the plane causing no harm to anyone on the ground.
These people are angels that somehow got their wings while they were still on Earth. And we all owe a world of gratitude to them for saving countless lives on this very day thirteen years ago. They were just like you, normal everyday people who took their own lives in order to save so many more. (NOTE: I write that paragraph at exactly 10:03-thirteen years to the exact moment that Flight 93 crashed to the ground)
It doesn’t matter what your reason is for being so deeply impacted by the events of September 11th, 2001. What does matter is that we Never Forget. Our government isn’t perfect, our law enforcers aren’t perfect, even the firefighters aren’t perfect. But when we these men and women were faced with terror they acted!
In the movies, the hero never dies. But in real life, on this day, many of them did. That’s what we should never forget. Think about the first responders when you are faced with with a situation that needs a hero. Think about the civilians on Flight 93. Never forgetting is the same as always remembering. Always remember to be a hero to someone who needs one. Maybe that is the lesson we can take from the heroes of September 11th.
We are the heroes. Never forget.