20 Years Later My Memories of September 11th Are Still Just As Fresh
For those of us who were alive and old enough to remember September 11, 2001, I think it's really important to stop for a minute and really think about what happened that day. I don't mean just think back to where you were or what you were doing, but remember how you felt that day and in the days that followed, and how it affected our country. For those who were not born or not old enough to remember, you probably have no idea how that tragic day unified our country - how people put politics and religion aside, and just came together as Americans, as human beings.
I originally wrote the following article back in 2011, on the 10-year anniversary of the attacks, but I think it is still relevant today. I think it's important for us to not only think about what happened in our lives that day but to also hear other people's stories. So, if you don't mind, please read my story, which I have updated. I'm about to tell you about my day, on that day 20 years ago.
On September 11, 2001, I had been married for just about two weeks. My wife and I had returned from our honeymoon about a week before 9/11. I was working at 103GBF at our former 41 and Lincoln location. I was the Promotions Director for 103GBF and our entire cluster of stations. I had just walked in the building, heading past the 103GBF studio when I heard Corndog (our overnight DJ at that time) say something about a plane hitting a building in New York. That's all I heard...no more details. And honestly, I pictured some small, single-engine plane, and only expected to hear about some property damage. I finally made it to a TV and realized it was a bit more serious. At this point, we had no reason to think it was anything more than just a horrible accident...but that all changed when the second plane hit.
I remember how quickly the upstairs conference room filled up. We were all huddled around what seemed to be a really small TV. Everyone had an opinion about what was going on. Everyone was speculating about what would happen next. One thing we all agreed on was that our lives, and the world, would never be the same again. We were right about that. No more work would get done that day.
People were calling me, canceling their appointments. Co-workers were calling loved ones and checking on them. Our day was absolutely consumed by what was happening in New York City.
I remember in the following days that we quickly organized a memorial service held out at the Central High School football field. We had officials from several different faiths come and speak about the tragedy. The turnout was amazing. It still gives me goosebumps to think about it even 18 years later.
I don't know if you've read this whole thing or not...so hopefully, these words don't fall on deaf ears (or blind eyes I guess). When I think back to that day, I think about two things.
1) I think about the tragedy of that day, which includes: how agonizing slowly things developed. I think about those poor people who were trapped in the towers, with no one able to reach them. I think about the fear they must have felt. I think about the helpless family members watching it all unfold on TV (remember this was a pre-social media world), trying frantically to reach their loved ones. The agony and the helplessness they must have felt almost brings me to tears as I'm typing right now. I think about the brave and selfless men and women that didn't hesitate to run into those towers to help. I think about the passengers on all of the planes, and only pray that they didn't suffer before their lives were cut short. I think about the passengers that made the decision to sacrifice themselves to save others when they took down the plane over Pennsylvania.
2) I think about the days that followed, and how this country came together. I think about the feeling of patriotism and how it was displayed everywhere you looked. I think about my family, and I try not to take them for granted for one single day, a minute, or a second. I also think about our country now, and how I can't remember a time when we were more divided. I think about the amount of venom and hatred that is on display with our politicians. I think about the amount of general cruelty and lack of humanity on display in our country - the apparent disregard for another human being, let alone a fellow American. These things sadden me and make me fearful for the world my kids are growing up in.
I hope you think about these types of things too, and I hope it makes you think about how you treat people. For me, a tragedy like this has to have a purpose - it can't all be for nothing. What can you do TODAY to make the world a better place?