There are moments in time, that stay forever etched in our memories, where we were, what we were doing at that moment. For my grandparents, of course it was the Great Depression, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and “the bomb.” For my parents, it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For me, the senseless murder of John Lennon, the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and on this date, twenty years ago, the unthinkable, an all out attack on US soil from an international effort. Sure, we have had our wars in our history on US soil, but this is the first time, on the mainland of the United States, we were attacked. It was unthinkable, and unforgettable.
In the late Summer of 2001, there were two thoughts on my mind. I was in the process of purchasing my first home, a four bedroom colonial with a fireplace, and an inground pool. While the fence around the house was not “white picket,” it would seal the image of what was to lay ahead in my life, a family. My closing was just less than two weeks before September 11, so between work, unpacking, and settling in, I was quite busy.
My employment was less than a three minute drive from my house. It was a typical and beautiful September morning. I arrived at 7:00 am as usual for my start at 7:10 am shift. My day was broken into four blocks of time, separated by breaks and a lunch. After completing my early morning’s assignments, I proceeded downstairs to our breakroom as was normal for me. I would typically log on to a computer to either do some job related training, or deal with some emails.
But as I arrived to the breakroom at 8:55 am, where I would normally only see two or three of my co-workers, instead, there was a group of at least fifteen others, surrounding our countertop, with attention drawn to the television.
It appeared that an airplane had crashed into one of the two towers in New York City. It was a horrifying sight. There is not a Hollywood scenario I had ever seen play out on the screen that mirrored this type of event, or rescue. We all stood there, watching the smoke billow out from the skyscraper, and then horror happened a second time, another airplane crashed into the other tower. All of us knew at that moment, this was not an accident. But the question is who and why? We have had “hijackings” before, but never like this. Soon after, news of another plane crashing into the Pentagon, and another in a field in Pennsylvania. What the Hell was going on?
Throughout the rest of our work day, we would work to complete our assignments as quickly as possible, to return to the breakroom to see, if it had gotten any worse, and if so, how. On the drive home, radio stations were now just callers phoning in to express their horrors and feelings, and surprisingly, allowed to do so in uncensored manner with F-bombs flying everywhere. The passion was immense and uncontrollable.
Of course, we know what happened on that day twenty years ago today, by who, and why. The events of 9/11 would now join the other memories of tragic events in my head, though clearly, the greatest WTF moment. This day would change everyone’s lives forever, all in different ways. Tragically, I do know some who lost loved ones that day. Miraculously, I know some who either survived or through divine intervention, were not in that fateful place when they were supposed to be.
For me, at that time, I did not have much personal connection to it, other than having been a tourist in the past on school trips to New York City. As an adult, I will never forget my first drive to Manhattan, approaching the turn to the Lincoln Tunnel, now a “parking lot” of traffic with vehicles being searched one by one before entering the tunnel, able to take a long look across the harbor, and the shock of no longer seeing the twin towers standing where they once did. I had never seen the skyline that way.
It was October of 2001, and I was driving to New York City for a taping of the People’s Court as I had a case against a local pet store that grabbed the producer’s attention (spoiler alert – I won). Though the attack a month earlier was still so fresh in everyone’s minds, and how it was affecting our daily lives, as I walked the streets upon arrival, I could see that most in NYC, clearly had moved on, not letting this act of terror affect or intimidate them.
Months later, I would face my first challenge with our country’s new reality, having to fly. There were new procedures at airports, and of course, always the fear, that this could happen again.
Three years later, I would become a father by travelling overseas to adopt my daughters. The terror attack on 9/11 was no longer a deterrent in my mind from carrying on. But I have not forgotten. In fact, since then, flying had become a regular part of our lives with vacations.
But now, my daughters much older, and clearly they were not born yet at the time the attacks occurred, I am curious about what they learn what happened on that day. Only now, as I watch documentaries such as one dealing with the classroom of students when then President Bush received the news, what impact did that have on the students who are now 27 years old?, or an innocent documentary on a new firefighter turned into an actual “in the scenes” documentary inside of the twin towers themselves as the attack progressed, it is quite upsetting to see all the details that I was unaware of.
And that is what today will be. There are a lot of documentaries of the events of September 11, 2001 being played on television today. Emotions will likely be as raw as they were twenty years ago, for many, even more so depending how they were impacted.
As I mentioned to my daughters the “events that affected your life” conversation, I did not even ask my daughters if they have experienced anything like that yet in their young lives, but wasted no time in responding, Covid19. Covid19 is their lifetime event, permanently etched in their memories.
My daughters know what happened on September 11, 2001, though they cannot comprehend how it could have happened, let alone, actually happening, to the United States, in the United States. One thing is for sure though, I, they, we, will never forget.