Ten years ago today, my life was changed forever, but it wasn’t just me – it was every American citizen whether they were alive during that horrible day or yet to be born, we were all forever changed. While many of the memories I have of 9/11 are of the pain and fear we all felt, there were other memories intermingled amongst the sadness. It is those thoughts and remembrances that I want to share with you. Thankfully, you were too young to remember the horrible images of that day, but there are important images I want you to remember about the day that changed our country.
I remember the day was beautiful. I was spending it with my friends – the girls – my tennis team. The first call we received we thought it was just a horrible accident, but the second call that came left us knowing it was not. We hugged each other; we cried; and we prayed. The comfort of those friends during that time was a beautiful memory I won’t ever forget. We each went our separate ways; each of us going to call loved ones. I went to work at the church I worked for in downtown Conyers. I remember driving down the street and seeing cars but no people. Even the telephone truck sitting behind my building was deserted – tools left out in the open without an owner. As I unlocked the back door, I heard the phone ringing. It was my boss, Mary. She told me the Pentagon had been hit. I remember the intake of my breath and asking, “Why, Mary?” We prayed together, and through that phone line, I felt her hug me – another beautiful memory I will never forget. She told me to go home, and so I did. As I drove down Main Street, I saw people inside the buildings all huddled around televisions, arms around each other offering comfort – another beautiful memory I will never forget. I drove straight to the preschool where my son Braedon was at, and I checked him out. He was far too young to know what was happening in his world, and I had already made sure my face showed no signs of the sadness and fear that I felt, but he must have known something was wrong. His little arms hugged me, and he kissed me, and he said, “I love you, Mommy” – another beautiful memory I will never forget. I did not check out my oldest son, Christian. He was old enough (2nd grade) that he would be able to understand something was terribly wrong, and I knew the school would shelter the students from the news, but I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the time to pick him up from school. While my face registered calm, my demeanor must have registered something else, because he too, gave me a hug and a kiss that enveloped me like a blanket – another beautiful memory I will never forget. That afternoon Christian and I watched the news together – Braedon was playing in his room. He asked questions that mimicked the same ones I had asked myself all day, “Why?” “Why, Mommy? Why do they hate us so much?” There were no answers, but it was during this time when we watched the people crying that I realized how blessed I was – I had my babies, and for that, I was eternally grateful – another beautiful memory I will never forget.
I don’t know how America got through that first day – that first week – but what I saw during that week and many, many weeks later was what it meant to be an American. I saw an outpouring of love from people everywhere. No longer were we separated by race or color – we were Americans. I saw resilience and determination in the faces of everyone I passed on the street or in the store. I saw strangers smiling at one another, hugging each other, and offering comfort during our time of crisis. We were UNITED – another beautiful memory I will never forget. It is these memories I choose to remember most often – not the ones filled with pain. It has been 10 years, and the feeling of American camaraderie has sadly waned a great deal. It is my hope with this 10th anniversary, we will remember what those days were like – the feeling of being ONE as a nation. I want this great country to remember what it means to be an American and once again embrace each other as human beings regardless of race or color. We are truly blessed to be Americans – a beautiful knowledge I will NEVER forget.