September 11, 2001 – Have We Forgotten?
It was September 11, 2001, and I was 21-years-old. I was so young and carefree and ridiculously naive to the insanity in the world around me. I'd grown up in a deeply religious home and although we attended public school, we were still very sheltered from so many of the horrors of the world.
In early 2001, I stepped out of the sheltered bubble in which I'd grown up and moved away from my hometown. On the day that my innocence died, I was hosting a morning show at a radio station in Vermont where I'd just finished reading the news and had gone into commercials. I figured that I had just enough time to run to the kitchen and refill my cup of coffee and run back before the music started up again. Little did I know my life would forever change in the 90 seconds that followed.
I grabbed my mug and walked to the kitchen and it was there that I heard Don Imus, who was on the kitchen radio, say something about a plane flying into one of the twin towers. I thought he must have been making a really awful joke and if he wasn't that it had to have been some sort of freak accident. It wasn't and at that moment, I wasn't fully aware of the enormity of what I'd just heard. Not just yet.
After filling up my coffee, I walked back to the studio and nonchalantly turned on the TV figuring that if there were anything happening, I'd see it on the news. The commercials were almost done and I put on my headphones, turned on my microphone to talk and that's when I saw it.
Before my eyes, on live television, the second plane crashed into a tower full of innocent people. It was at that moment that I knew there was no mistaking what had happened. It wasn't a joke and it certainly wasn't an accident. What I was watching was a very real and very deliberate act of terror. We were under attack.
Every part of my body began to tremble and the tears streamed down my face as I shakily explained to my listeners what I'd just seen. I have cassette tapes from that day as that's how we recorded our shows back then but even to this day, I can't bring myself to listen to them. The horror of everything will be forever burned into my memory.
The next hours were chaotic as I ran back and forth to the fax machine and newswire, gathering as much information as I could. Listeners with friends and family in New York and Pennsylvania kept calling, looking for information and I felt helpless because I didn't know what to tell them. All of us were all shocked at what was happening and believed that the world was crumbling in front of our eyes. It was. Nothing would ever be the same, including me. My sheltered bubble had been burst and I would never see the world the same way again.
Amid the mass chaos, time stood still for all of us. Planes smashed into buildings where mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters were working, just trying to earn a living. Almost 3,000 innocent people lost their lives and we couldn't, and still can't wrap our heads around that.
In the days and weeks following September 11, 2001, there was such a sense of responsibility to be kind to others, even to strangers. People were a little less quick to react with a negative word and faster to react with compassion, peace, and grace. Through this unspeakable tragedy, we were unified as one. We were Americans and we stood strong together. Flags were flown proudly on virtually every house, car and business.
As the pain in our hearts began to heal, we started to find ourselves drifting back to our regular lives- the way we were before September 11th. Recently, I saw a flyer touting a "September 11th sale" and instantly felt sick to my stomach. How could anyone think that that it's even remotely okay to capitalize on terror and death?
Have we forgotten? I don't think it's fair to say that we've completely forgotten, but I don't think September 11th means what it once did. I think we've become so wrapped up in all of the conspiracy theories and political agendas that we've forgotten that all of us were under attack that day. Lives- innocent ones, were lost. Families were destroyed. The terrorists didn't pick their victims based on political affiliation or religious beliefs. They attacked us all.
September 11th is a day that should be of remembrance, not a day to make a dollar or gain a vote. It should be a day to reflect on those who lost their lives and those who've lost their lives as a result in the years since. It should be a day that we stop for a minute to teach our children about what happened so that when we're gone, they can share our memories of that day with future generations and make sure that September 11th will never be forgotten. It's the very least we can do.