Ten Years Ago Today

I had just finished showering and was getting ready for work. Walking into the living room, towel drying my hair, I glanced over to the TV. I saw one of the WTC towers billowing with smoke and people were screaming, “Omigod, a plane has just hit the tower.”

Half asleep, I thought at first that it was a commercial for some disaster movie of the week. Then as I listened, I realized that it was really happening. It was an actual news report and a plane really did hit the tower.

As things were falling in place mentally, I noticed another plane on the screen. It hit the second tower as I was watching. Two planes just happened to hit both towers? This couldn’t be just a coincidence I thought to myself.

I called in to see if the store was closing due to the attacks. They hadn’t even heard anything so I ended up having to go in. I was so upset, I was crying as I drove to work.

As the events of the morning unfolded, I was aghast. I heard about the Pentagon on the drive over to the mall. After some pleading, we turned off the music and turned on the radio to hear the latest.

Shortly after we turned on the radio I heard that the first tower had collapsed from the damage. Then the second tower fell. I had no visuals, since we had no TV to watch, but listening to them describe the events was bad enough.

During the rest of the afternoon, I heard about United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. I heard stories of people rushing in to help and getting killed as they were trying to get others out. I heard stories of bodies falling from the sky as people jumped in last ditch attempts to get out of the doomed buildings.

I personally felt crushed. Thousands of lives ended because some terrorist felt he had to make a point. I just couldn’t believe we were under attack.

I also had a friend, Amy, who worked in the WTC. I tried calling her on my break but of course by then, all of the lines were so busy, no calls were getting in or out. I got an email later that night that she ended up calling in sick to work that morning, so thankfully she was fine and still alive.

Around 4pm, I got a phone call from the mall office that they were closing at 6pm. I was so happy. There wasn’t any point being open anyways. Once word got out, nobody was in the mall save employees and a few tourists.

So many lives were lost that day. Needlessly lost. It reinforced how precious just being alive is. But something else came out of that day. Even as we were being attacked, we came together to help each other.

When I got home, I was glued to the news, and I remember seeing people helping each other walk out of the zone. Covered in dust, everybody looked the same. We were all human beings, one mass affected by the horror, but together we would get one another through this. Over the next few days, even more stories surfaced that showed the strength of humanity, of Americans caught up in this unspeakable chaos. We may have been blindsided by this but we were not down for the count by any means.

In a way, I think this was our generation’s Pearl Harbor. We were attacked on our own soil by outside forces, and we suffered a horrendous blow. Not just in the loss of lives, but in the loss of our trust in the world around us. But together we would get through this and come back even stronger.

Ten years later we live in a much different mindframe than we did back then. As a travel writer, I’m acutely aware of how much the world has changed since 9/11/2001. Or more to the point, how much we’ve changed in our dealings with the world around us.

I hate that when I fly I have to get x-rayed or molested by strangers patted down by the TSA. I hate that a driver’s license will no longer get me across the border for a fun weekend in Canada.

We have all these safety precautions in place that keep getting proven inadequate. Every time we get lulled into a false sense of security, some terrorist either tries to circumvent airport security or, even worse, is a homegrown sympathizer who tries to create devastation on U.S. soil in the name of whatever.

I could go into a huge diatribe here about how I hate that there are men in this world who feel the need to twist a religion to suit the needs of their own hatred, but honestly, I don’t feel like getting into a huge political or religious debate about this post. And while it happened on American soil, I hope we don’t ever forget we weren’t the only country to lose its citizens on that fateful day.

I just hope that ten years later, we’ve come out of this with something more than just a memorial at Ground Zero. Not that it would justify the loss of lives, but so at least they wouldn’t have died for nothing but some person’s need to make a point with hatred and violence.

If this post seems a bit rambly, I apologize. It’s just whenever I think back to the events of 9/11, I still get overwhelmed with sadness and it’s hard for me to convey all of my thoughts and emotions. I’ll be the first one to admit I’m a pacifist. I hate the use of violence and I’ll never understand how you could hate so much that you could kill because of it.

At any rate, as we look back at what happened ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, I hope that we remember that we are strong when we are united and that we never forget that lesson came with a price we should never have had to pay.

[Photos: Top – unknown; Bottom – Derek Jensen. Used with permission via WikiMedia.]

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