Never Forget.

We curled up on Grandma’s bed, flipping through TV channels, looking for cartoons.  It was a fine Tuesday morning in September, and we were on vacation in Southern California.  The next day was my birthday, and I was going to be ten years old.

My 8 year-old sister held the remote.  It was hard to find cartoons that day.  I kept seeing weird scenes…pictures of huge clouds of billowing smoke seemed to be on every channel.  “Mama said something happened,” Michaela said, “Some planes crashed into a skyscraper.”

I didn’t think much of it.  I was 9-almost-10 and I already had a vague realization that news on TV was always bad and surreal and unimportant.  Finally, I tumbled out of Grandma’s bed and tiptoed downstairs.  The house was eerie in its quiet.  In the kitchen, Mom sat before the TV, watching something.

“What happened, Mommy?” I asked.  Rarely ever, before or since, have I seen her so shaken.

Soon, the whole world knew the truth.

Early that morning, all the way across the country, nineteen men had hijacked four commercial airliners.  Some of them were headed to San Francisco, near my home, the others to Los Angeles, near where I was at my Grandma’s.  But instead, two of the planes had been driven into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, New York.  American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon in Virginia.  The fourth, destined for the U.S. Capitol building, was crashed in a Pennsylvania field thanks to the bravery of its passengers.

On that Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, some 2,975 people died, including 411 emergency workers who sacrified their lives trying to end the fires and save others from the rubble and burning buildings.  24 people remain missing.  At least 6,291 people were injured.

Today, I awoke to the sound of voices from my past playing over the radio.  The woman crying as she told of her daughter, calling her on her cell phone, saying, “Mom, there are men on this plane, and they say they have bombs.”  A New Yorker, his voice unsteady with emotion; “The towers are burning.  There are people jumping out of the windows.  I can’t believe this is happening.”

Today is September 11, 2008.  Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am turning 17.

Some things never change…some things will never be the same.

There is a hole in New York City where once the World Trade Center towers stood, tall and proud, reaching to the sky.  There is a hole in the hearts of thousands of people who lost a loved one on that cold September morning.  There is a hole in the feeling of security and safety here in our nation, whose trust has been breached and whose innocence has been shattered.

But September 11, 2001 was not a day of defeat.  On that day, we were hurt but not defeated.  We were bruised but not broken.  We were crushed but not destroyed.  We have fallen but we stood strong again.

In New York, thousands of people were used to the sight of the magnificent Twin Towers.  They were a beacon, a symbol of beauty and unity and strength and everything good in this nation of ours.  And then one day, in a cloud of smoke, they were gone.  No one knew how and no one knew why, but everyone realized that their world would never be the same.

No one felt safe that day.  Even on the other side of the country, in sunny California, near LA where some of the flights were supposed to have landed, we all felt vulnerable…insecure.  Nothing was sure.  No one knew why this had happened and no one knew what would come next.  Driving home to Northern California shortly afterwards, we passed guards standing watch on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  No one knew when or where the next attack might be.

Even in this time of distress and turmoil there were heroes.  The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 firefighters and 2 paramedics.  The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers; the Port Authority Police Department lost 37 and a K9 dog.  8 EMS and paramedics from private units also lost their lives.  As hundreds of people flooded out of the Towers, swarming the stairs, panicked to get out…these brave men and women were going up.  Fighting the flow, they were looking for those who were too old or too weak or injured…those who couldn’t get out.  Many of these brave people never came down those stairs again.

Numerous individuals gave of themselves during this crisis…many of whose stories will never be told, who will never be recognized as the heroes that they are.

 

I turned 10 the next day.  It wasn’t a happy day.  At first, almost everyone forget.  It just plain wasn’t important.  On that day, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, sweethearts and friends, children and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors, were still crying.  Some were waiting for news of their missing loved ones.  Desperate to know.  Rescue workers were searching through the rubble for anyone who might still be alive.

President Bush read Psalm 23 to a nation of hurting people.  His words calmed our hearts…words that were not his own, but were almost as old as pain and suffering itself.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…

Pray for the families and friends of those who were lost.  Today, they are remembering.  Pray for our soldiers, fighting our enemy in a faraway land…away from those they love…so that something like this will never happen again.  Pray for our leaders, that they have wisdom and boldness.  Pray for God’s people, that they reach out to those who are hurting.  Pray for our country.

And never forget what happened that September morning.

God bless America.

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