Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America. It was a day I’ll never forget, and a day I don’t believe anybody should forget. It was a day whose images have forever scarred the souls of those who were watching. It was also a day that changed our entire nation.
September 11, 2001. I was asleep in my college apartment when a friend texted me, telling me to turn on the television. “NOW”, the text demanded. I walked into the front room and nudged my fiance who had fallen asleep on my sofa the night before. “I think something’s going on,” I told her, tossing my phone across the room to her so she could read the text. I turned the television on and images of the first World Trade Center billowing with smoke immediately filled the screen.
At that point nobody knew whether it was a freak accident or something that was done purposefully. At that point I don’t know that it mattered. A plane had just crashed into a building and the weight of that was horrific.
I was, of course, glued to my television when the second plane hit. I saw it hit the building. I was watching it live, as was most of the country. Tuned into CNN, this is what I saw.
I remember I just sat there staring at the screen, my mind slow to absorb the truth of what I had just witnessed. The only words I could eventually muster were “No, no, no, no, no.”
It was after the second plane hit that I first cried that day. It wouldn’t be the last.
Then the Pentagon was hit. There were no live images, just news reports that began trickling in. Yet it was the news of the Pentagon attack that filled me with terror. It was then that the people in our country really understood that our nation was under attack. There was no doubting it at that point.
Before that, it was an attack on a set of buildings. Horrific. Terrible. But localized and far from where I sat watching it on my television. After the Pentagon, it left me and the rest of America feeling vulnerable, panicked, and… terrorized. Were there more attacks to come? Where would the next attack take place? Would anybody we know and love be involved? Was anybody we know and love already involved?
With every moment that ticked away, reporters and newscasters offered different situations, theories, and explanations. The fear intensified with every detail and every image that came pouring through the media.
And then the south tower collapsed.
Eight minutes later, reports came in that another airplane went down somewhere in Pennsylvania. I cried again, wanting to turn the TV off. Unable to do so. Unable to do anything but sit terrified, hurting, crying. Praying that nobody I knew was anywhere near any of it. Praying for those who were. Praying that we’d seen the end of it. 19 minutes later the north tower collapsed.
The only thing I remember after that was watching the same images from different angles replayed all day long. Speculation was as thick as the smoke that continued billowing into the New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. skies.
September 11, 2001. At the end of all of it, I remember a country more united than I’d ever seen it before and more united than I’ve seen since. It seemed for a little while there, this country had no democrats after 9/11. No republicans. No religions. No anything. Just Americans. Hurt, pissed-off, determined, united Americans.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad
Laughing Not Forgetting
PS. Where were you that day? How did 9/11 affect you personally? What lessons have you carried with you since then? Do you believe that it is helpful or hurtful to review those images from time to time?
Oh, and one other thing… have you ever listened to Alan Jackson’s song “Where Were You?” (the song from which I’ve titled today’s post) If not, you should: