Today is a day for remembering and reflecting on what happened on that terrible day, 14 years ago, when terrorists killed and injured thousands of Americans. As time goes on, memories will fade, witnesses will pass away, and there will be fewer first-hand accounts, not just of what happened, but how it felt—just like there are so few left that remember the “date that will live in infamy” when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I think this explains why so many of us who remember 9/11, especially who were in New York City and Washington DC when the attacks took place, feel it is necessary to document what we saw and felt, adding our own small piece to the historical record while we can. A few years ago, I posted an account in this blog on what I saw and felt on that terrible day, excerpted below:
I remember Washington the way it was on the day that our nation was attacked. I remember listening to my car radio on the way to work, and hearing that a “small” plane had collided with the Twin Towers in my home city of New York. I remember gathering with my co-workers to watch the event unfold on TV. I remember going to the roof of our office building to watch the smoke rising from the Pentagon. I remember hearing that another hijacked plane was heading to Washington, maybe to the White House, only four blocks from our office, an intended missile that never came to us because we later learned that it was brought down by courageous passengers in rural Pennsylvania.
I remember hearing rumors of more attacks—bombings at the State Department, in Metro subway stations, rumors that were not true, but we didn’t know that then. I remember not knowing what to tell our employees to do—go home, stay in the office until we got further word? Nothing in my training had prepared me for my city being under possible attack. I remember the traffic gridlock as millions tried to flee. I remember the eerily empty streets of DC, many hours after the traffic finally cleared and people hid in their homes.
I remember the helicopters endlessly circling the city. I remember days later, when we were able to return to work, seeing the intersections of the nation’s capital patrolled by tanks and National Guards troops with automatic weapons, something I never expected to see in my life. And I remember a few days later, taking Amtrak to an ACP chapter meeting in Connecticut, looking out the window as we passed Manhattan, and seeing through my tears the smoking, gaping hole where the World Trade Center once stood.
And I remember trying to make sense of the senseless to my young children, trying to reassure them that they were safe when in my heart I was never sure we’d ever feel safe again.
Much has changed in the years since, but in a world where terrorism remains a threat here and abroad, and where mass shootings have become an almost weekly event in the United States, I must still question if we’ll ever truly feel safe again.
Today’s question: What are your reflections on September 11, 2001?