It was a clear, bright September morning and I was working my part-time gig at the Home Depot. At approximately 8:50 am, a work associate walked through my department and announced that a plane had just struck the world trade center. My mind immediately thought of a small plane scratching the surface of one of the towers and falling to the ground below. My biggest concern was the hope that no one on the ground was injured from the falling debris. I made my way up to the front of the store and was stunned by the image being broadcast on TV. I was shocked to see smoke bellowing from one of the towers with a gaping hole in the building. I remained stunned for the rest of the day as the events of that day unfolded. When it was finally time for me to report to my full time job later that evening I would learn firsthand of the total chaos and mayhem caused by this tragic event.
At the time of the attack I was a federal officer assigned to the East New York Section of Brooklyn. The highways were empty that night, and no tolls were collected at the toll booths. Instead of paying the tolls, I simply showed my credentials to the NYC police officers who were posted at road blocks at the bridge and tunnel crossings, to gain access into the city. Once at work, there was this look of gloom that was apparent on the face of most everyone that night. And the fact that we could see the plume of smoke rising in lower Manhattan all the way from Brooklyn did not permit us to take our minds off of the days’ events. Ironically, five years previous, I was assigned to the city where I regularly worked in lower Manhattan in the vicinity of Church Street. I can remember each time I caught a red light while passing the world trade center on vehicle patrol, I would always look up to gaze at the this amazing building. And with my fear of heights I would always flinch as I thought of what it would be like to fall from the top stories of this building. Little did I know this would actually occur to some of the people who innocently reported to work at the world trade center on September 11, 2001.
Twelve years later and here we are at that time of year again. The time of year each TV and radio station replays the images and sounds of September 11, 2001. With each new year we learn of more untold stories of heroes and victims alike. We learn more details of the many heroes who too became victims themselves. Sympathy and appreciation are two of the strongest human character traits we can demonstrate, but sometimes there is absolutely no substitute for actual experience. Sometimes our memories wax cold through the passage of time.
When a period of time grows between tragedy and recovery or between hurt and healing, it often becomes easier to forget the pain. That is, unless one has experienced such hurt or tragedy in a very traumatic way leading to permanent loss. The events of September 11, 2001 were undoubtedly traumatic, searing the conscience of the entire nation and the world. And the permanent loss we experienced in the form of so many brave, bright, and beautiful people will never truly heal over time, but will exist as a scar in the history of our nation, and in the memories of the family and friends of the victims forever.
If one has never served in the military or in civilian public service how can they begin to understand what it is like to sacrifice individual choice and independence to protect the freedoms within this nation rather than protesting them? One of the hardest things for any adult or child for that matter is to take orders and to be told what to do, and to have to comply without question. Yet in the military and in civilian public service that is exactly what many adults have to endure daily to accomplish the mission of an organization or agency and to ensure the country continues to function in an effective manner.
This September 11th, try taking a moment to stop and think before deciding to complain about life or about the fire fighters and the police; hospital emergency room workers and EMS workers, the military, and the many others whose job it is to run to danger instead of running from it. Instead, say a prayer for them and give thanks, and remember the victims of this horrific tragedy and their families.