NEW YORK CITY- Each year on the anniversary of the attacks on New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, I find myself at a loss of words to describe the horror and the shock of the September 11 attacks that still haunt our nation today. Those of us who remember the attacks will never forget the disbelief and the shock that our nation suffered on that horrible day in our country’s history. And every year since that fateful day, I find myself looking back, still in the disbelief that it really happened. Still hurting like so many people who were around when it happened, and still wanting life to return to the way it was before the attacks.
So, every year, I write this story. And every year, I struggle with the thoughts that I want to share with our readers. What can I say that hasn’t already been said a million times? Or, perhaps, what needs to be said again and again to make sure that we never forget what was done to our nation on this terrible day. Or even more importantly, what can we say that will educate our children and young people today who perhaps were not around when this happened, but need to know and pass the lessons on to their children?
On the day of September 11, 2001, I remember getting to my office that morning, and the office staff were talking about something that was happening in the news that day. The more they talked, they decided to turn on the television to see what was happening. A short time later, the newscast was announcing a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. And from that point on, the rest of the day came to a standstill. As more information was made available, it became increasing clear that the United States was under attack. Strangely enough, outside of the immediate area of the attacks in New York City, there wasn’t panic, but instead a deep sense of shock and disbelief that this was actually happening. It was like a state of paralysis, followed by a deep sense of grief, had descended down upon all of us.
Looking back, we all know that the loss of life was extensive on that terrible day. Our nation was devastated by the large numbers of innocent people and their families who lost loved ones at the hands of terrorists. Terrorists who hijacked commercial jet liners to use them as weapons in a kamikaze style attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. A third plane was intended to be a second attack on our nation’s capital, but it was forced to the ground in Pennsylvania after brave passengers aboard the jet attempted to stop the hijackers. Everyone on board all three airplanes were killed, and thousands of others lost their lives due to the explosions, the ensuing fires, the collapse of the towers, and, horrifically, falling to their deaths from high atop the Trade Center towers.
Many were killed in the collapse of the towers. And many brave men and women first responders were killed, rushing into the burning towers to rescue trapped people, and who later died when the towers came crashing down. Words cannot adequately express the horror of that day, certainly not mine.
We say it every year: we must never forget. And that is true. But sadly, most of us have forgotten. One thing that has surely been forgotten is that for a short time immediately after the attacks, our nation was united. Politics aside, all of us were under attack, and we all stood together out of respect for those who had lost their lives, and as a symbol of defiance to those who had perpetrated this horrible attack. For a brief time, we were united. We were the United States of America.
And with the divided state of our nation today, oh how I wish we were united once again. It is my hope and prayer that it does not take another tragedy like what happened on September 11 to bring us back together again. In fact, I wonder, even in the face of tragedy, if our nation would come together as it did 22 years ago. And while I hope we never have to do so in such dire and tragic circumstances, I pray that we would come together if tragedy ever struck our nation again.
In fact, I pray that we will come together today, not waiting for another tragedy like the one of September 11. And for me, one of the first things we must do to come together is not to forget the past. We must never forget to honor those who lost their lives, and we must not forget the lessons learned from that terrible day.
To our young readers, I would ask you to educate yourselves and your children on the events of September 11. Make sure they know that our nation was attacked on U.S. soil, and that thousands of innocent people lost their lives. Let them know that it hurts, and it is a wound that may never heal. It won’t for the families who lost their loved ones. Every year at this time, they are reminded of their losses. Those families may never heal, and we owe all of them to not forget them and the brave men and women who died trying to save them all on that day. So many first responders lost their lives too. All of them deserve the respect of never being forgotten.
Our children and grandchildren need to learn this, and they too, must never forget.