Where were you on September 11, 2001?
I was dropping my youngest daughter off for her first real day of pre-school. We listened to Murphy and Maino, a local morning show, on the radio as we drove to school, her buckled into her car seat way in the backseat of our giant conversion van, and me running through all the things I planned to accomplish during the 2 ½ hours she would be in school.
When I got back into the car Bryant Gumbel was on the air and I briefly wondered why the Today Show host was appearing live on a Green Bay morning radio program.
Then, I heard what he had to say, and I drove straight home.
“Vince!” I said to my husband as I ran into the house. “The country is on fire.”
He was just getting ready to head out the door, but we both rushed into the family room and turned on the TV.
Even from 1,000 miles away, we felt the aftershocks as the first tower tumbled to the ground, not physically, of course, but I remember my heart slamming against my chest as I saw that building crumble.
All those poor people started their day like the rest of us, got up, brushed their teeth, showered, dressed, maybe chatted a little with their co-workers as they settled into their morning. And none of them came home – 2,606 people in the World Trade Center, 125 in the Pentagon, 246 on the four planes dead on an ordinary Tuesday during an extraordinary act of terror.
Our lives have all changed in ways we could not have imagined 18 years ago. We travel differently now, less assured of our place in this vast universe and far more alert. We take more care with our goodbyes because we understand that casual leavings can become desperate memories even on a benign sunny day.
As hard as it is to remember those terrible scenes that happened on 9/11, I think it’s critical to who we are — earnest and very human beings. Remember where you were that day and how you felt. Remember how proud you were of all those first responders – firefighters, police officers, EMTs, — who ran into those burning towers and so many of them who never came back out.
I think it’s important to think about who we really are as Americans, what we went through and how we battled back, and to summon that collective spirit of determination and pride in honor of those who left us on that awful day.
Where were you on 9/11? Where are you now and where do you hope to be?
I think it’s fair to ask these questions at least annually and this anniversary is a good time to start.
God bless America — then, now and always.