I was in college the fall of 2001 and didn’t have classes on Tuesdays or Thursdays, so I was sleeping late. Or I was trying to sleep late. The phone kept ringing off the hook. I’d ignore it and before I knew it, it would be ringing again. I don’t know how long this went on, but I’d guess at least a half hour or more. Finally I was sick of it, so I answered the phone.
Me – “Hello?”
Daddy – “Hey. What are you doing?”
Me – “Trying to sleep.”
Daddy – “Turn the TV on. You’re sleeping through history.”
That was enough to wake me up. I asked what was happening and he told me that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. A plane had also hit the Pentagon and another had crashed in Pennsylvania, which they believed had been targeting the White House. It’s hard to believe now, but at the time, I had no idea what the World Trade Center looked like. Daddy told me it was the two tall towers side by side in New York City. I had to turn on the tv and watch the news coverage before I knew which buildings had been hit.
I was riveted by the coverage on TV. By the time I turned it on, both towers had already collapsed and there was a giant pile of rubble. It just seemed unreal. I was glued to the coverage for most of the day. There was fear of gas prices skyrocketing, so I went to put gas in my car and the lines were probably at least five cars deep. I was fearful from the events of the day and that night, as a 21 year old, I slept on my parents’ bedroom floor. I didn’t think a terrorist was going to break into my bedroom window and harm me in the middle of the night, but for some reason, I felt safer sleeping on my parents’ bedroom floor. I think I ended up sleeping there two nights in a row before sleeping in my own room again.
That week, I attended an assembly in memory of the victims on campus. I went to the ABS for the first time, where I ended up being very involved the rest of my college years and met some of my closest friends. I remember the resolve President Bush displayed when he addressed the nation. I remember the feeling of patriotism that filled our country. It is strange to think that it has now been twelve years since that day. That means the kids who are seniors in high school right now were kindergarteners when the 9/11 attacks happened. I wonder how many of them remember it. I very vaguely remember the space shuttle Challenger exploding when I was in kindergarten.
In the time since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, I have been to New York four times and my fifth trip is already booked. My first visit to New York was in March of 2006. Jody and I visited Ground Zero on that trip. It felt surreal to be in that place where thousands lost their lives. I remember a man was playing an instrument – a flute, maybe – right outside the fence surrounding Ground Zero. He was playing Amazing Grace. In January 2007, I went again with my friends, Jennifer & Jordin. We walked the perimeter of Ground Zero and one thing I remember is a huge American flag that was hanging in a building nearby. In February 2011, I went back again, and this time visited the Tribute 9/11 Memorial Museum. My friends/coworkers, Jennifer, Mrs. Paula, Mrs. Mary, and I did a walking audio tour. It had survivors and family members of victims telling their stories. We are a loud group and it was the quietest we had been all week, walking around the area, viewing the site, listening to the stories. It was incredibly moving. Then we went into the actual museum and saw some artifacts and photographs. I’m glad we had all kind of gone off to ourselves during the time we visited this museum, because I think it was important for us to privately take it all in. When I came to this, I could barely keep it together:
There were three solid walls, floor to ceiling, of photographs of the victims. It was one thing to see a list of names, but to see their faces made it all the more real. There were also some drawings, letters, and other miscellaneous items here and there. I remember seeing a baseball and a small wall or door hanging that said “Love Lives Here”. It was a beautiful memorial. I had to walk away and get myself together, but am so grateful I got to see this … that I got to see them.
The last area of the museum had an area where you could sit down and write your thoughts or memories down on a card. The room had lots of cards posted on the walls where visitors could go around and read them. Jennifer and I wrote our thoughts down & left cards for them.
On my fourth trip, in January 2012, my friends and I visited the 9/11 Memorial. It’s the official site with the reflecting pools where the towers once stood. It is beautiful.
They are currently getting ready to open a bigger museum in the spring of 2014. I will miss the opening by a few months, since my next trip is still in the winter. But on trip number six, I want to visit with a large package of Kleenex. At the new museum, they’ll actually have a touch screen where you can touch a name, see photos, and actually hear loved ones tell stories and memories of that particular person. I love the effort that’s being made to remember the people whose lives were lost.
They say in every generation there will come an event that everyone will forever remember where they were when they heard about it. I pray that we will always remember to pray for the survivors and the families and friends of the victims on this day. I didn’t know a single person who died on that day, but every September 11th, as I watch replayed footage of the events, I find myself fighting hard to keep from crying. If I struggle, I know those who lost someone must be having a far harder day than I can even begin to comprehend. I pray we will always remember – even if we didn’t know them personally – that real lives were lost. Lives of people who were doing nothing more scandalous or offensive than going to work – something most of us do every day. They were moms & dads, aunts & uncles, grandparents, sisters & brothers, neighbors & friends. They were just like the rest of us. May we never forget. God bless their families who miss them so much. And, please God, may it never happen again.