I know this makes two posts in one day, but it just doesn’t seem right to let the day go by without mentioning it.
I remember when I learned about JFK’s assassination in school. The teacher told us everyone remembered where they were when they heard. I started asking around, and it was true. I remember thinking how strange it must have been. How odd to have been around for such an earth-shattering event. Part of me wondered if I’d ever have a moment like that. If something would happen in my time that I would remember that way. I never could have imagined what it was.
Tuesday mornings were always really quiet at the newspaper. We printed on Mondays, and they were always crazy. Tuesday morning was usually pretty sparse. That day, it was just the news editor, Jim, and me in the back, and then the front office staff of two. Jim was listening to the radio. I remember he told me about the first plane. Such a strange and horrible accident… We started listening more closely. After the second plane – well – I just couldn’t really comprehend what was happening.
Eventually, I just went home to watch the coverage on TV. It was such a haunting feeling. And watching those people jumping out of the Twin Towers…there were just no words. Knowing the only choice they had left to make was HOW they would die that day, not if or when. The plane that hit the pentagon. The plane they couldn’t find, but went down in Pennsylvania. I started to wonder how on earth this day would end.
Every summer for many years, our family would host a foreign journalist for a few days. They were journalists touring the United States, and part of their tour was staying with a “rural” newspaper family. In 2001, the journalist was from Pakistan. I remember her asking us if we ever worried about an attack on the United States. It was something I’d never really thought about, even though people in other countries dealt with it every day. Who would attack the United States? On our own land? That conversation came back to me over and over again that Tuesday morning.
And there I was. Watching the United States under attack from my living room. Wondering what was next. Knowing my good college friend worked somewhere in New York City, and hoping and praying she would be ok – so relieved when I found out she was fine.
As stories started to emerge, I couldn’t even imagine making the choices that were made that day. Calling loved ones, because you knew it was the end. The firefighters that kept going back in the building. And the amazing people who took down the hijackers of Flight 93.
It was a day of terror and uncertainty. But more importantly, it was a day of bravery and heroism. A day where people looked beyond themselves.
This morning I listen to family members read the names of those lost. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, cousins – they aren’t just part of a number. There are nearly 3,000 empty seats at family gatherings. Today each person reads a few names, and then reads the name of their loved one and adds a special message. I’m amazed how many take part of their moment to remind us to love each other a little more. I hope we can all honor their memories by doing just that.