I received a phone call from a close friend of mine that morning. It was an unexpected call, as we had just spoken the night before and it was so early to hear from her - it wasn't even 6am. I answered the phone and my first question to her was, "Are you okay?". I remember the panic in her voice as she yelled, "A plane just crashed into the Tower!" Not being able to comprehend what she just said, I asked her to repeat herself but instead she insisted that I turn on the news. I ran into the family room and turned on CNN. There it was - the picture of the tower smoking. Only minutes later, I watched as the second plane flew into the second tower. I yelled for my husband to come see what I was watching. I remember the fear in the voices of the broadcasters as they tried to report what all of us were watching. When my husband came into the room, I remember turning and looking at him and whispering, "We are under attack." I sat silent for what seemed to be hours, but in reality was only a few minutes. I stared at the TV, not really hearing anything that was being said anymore and just thinking, "Now What? What should I do? Where do I go?" I told my girlfriend to be safe and to stay glued to the TV for instructions, as if the broadcasters had now become the quarterbacks and would call the shots for the rest of the day.
I got up to get my kids ready for school and remember asking myself, do I tell them what is going on? Do I go about our day and not mention it? My children were only 9 and almost 3. I decided to go about business as usual, but when I woke them up and gave them their good morning hugs, I held on longer than normal and didn't want to let go. The rest of the morning was surreal. I continued on, although on auto-pilot, but the kids got to school and I got to work. I remember walking into the office and seeing a few employees who were aware of what was going on and were visibly shaken; others just walking in the door had no idea. I found a TV and after a brief "discussion" with my boss explained that whether or not he approved, the TV was going on.
As we all sat in front of the TV trying to learn about was happening, we were all waiting to hear what we could or should be doing. How could we help? Where should we go? Where else were the planes going? What about the people in the towers? It was then that my mind started going through a rolodex of names - who did I know that was in NY? Who worked there? Who was visiting? An hour later, I received a call that a very close family friend was in NY, attending a seminar. The first question out of my mouth was "Where was the seminar taking place?" The answer, "In the Towers." My heart stopped. I immediately started calling but no calls were going through. My mind was racing. Then another name popped into my head, another family friend worked in the Towers. Where was she? Did she call in sick? Was she on vacation out of the area? My G-dmother was a stewardess with American, where was she? The names and faces of my friends and family were running through my mind and there was nothing that I could do but hope and pray that they were safe.
The rest of the day was a blur. I remember watching the Pentagon footage and remember thinking, "We aren't prepared for this." The thought of helplessness was debilitating. The feelings of pain and fear were running through every inch of my body as I thought of the people in those planes, their families, their friends, their last thoughts. I have never been more glued to a television set in my life. Every detail, every facial expression, hand gesture, every word, were as important to me as my next breath. Watching as the towers fell to the ground; learning about Flight 93; the evacuation of NY and DC. I remember hearing that all of the flights were being cancelled/grounded and it wasn't until that moment that I was able to exhale - as if that was the moment that I thought, okay we are getting a handle on this. Finally news of something we were doing proactively instead of just news about what was happening to "us". My memories of Sept 11th seem so clear it's as if it all happened only weeks ago. The images are forever burned in my mind and the feelings forever in my heart.
As I think back on that day though I find myself thinking less and less about the actual events that took place. Not as if the events are being forgotten, but I find myself focusing more on all of the men and women who pulled together that day. I think about the thousands of lives that were lost and the hundreds of thousands more that were forever changed because of that day. I think of the children who lost a parent; the parents who lost children. I think about the strength of those fighting on the ground, the first responders, the passengers on each of the planes and it puts things into a different perspective.
To all of our men and women across the globe who fight for our freedoms and our safety - thank you. To all of our men and women who protect us every day, answering the hundreds of thousands of calls for service, thank you. To everyone who has stepped out of their comfort zone and helped someone else, not because of what you thought you'd get in return, but because it was the right thing to do - thank you too.
I would like to ask that although many of you will forever remember where you were when this tragedy took place, I ask you to also remember how you felt when it happened. I ask you to never forget about the lives that were lost; the brave men and women who stepped up to the plate to help and that as the greatest country in the world we must still fight every day for our freedoms and our safety. Make today not just a day when you change the wallpaper on your computer screen, but make today a day when you make a difference in someone else's life; then make that a habit. Every time you see a public servant, someone in our military, etc - THANK THEM. When you see our flag flying - stop for a moment and remember what that flag stands for - It stands for Freedom - the freedom to be involved, to stand up for what's right; to not turn a blind eye and to NEVER EVER FORGET.