I saw picture of the New York skyline that was taken on September 10, 2001, about 24 hours before the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It was profound. The picture, taken so innocently, probably by a tourist, foretold nothing of the horror that was eminent. No one knew. No one suspected. No one thought such an attack could ever happen on American soil again, but it did, and just 24 hours after this picture was taken, we would all know that it definitely could, and did happen here again.
Just 24 hours after this picture was taken, the lives of 2,996 people would be over (including the 19 hijackers). In addition, more than 6,000 people would be injured. These immediate deaths included 265 on the four planes (including the terrorists), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon. The September 11th attacks were the deadliest terrorist attack in world history, and the most devastating foreign attack on United States soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941…the last time we had thought it could never happen here.
We could go over the deaths of the people here, but we all know the horror that took place. We wanted to close our eyes to the terrible images, and yet, in utter disbelief, we could not look away. We hoped against hope, and prayed without ceasing, that by some miracle, more people would be found alive. Still, as time went on, we knew there would be no more survivors. Nevertheless, we waited and we watched. We watched with hope, but we also watched with anger. There was no reason for such a horrible attack on our nation. We weren’t at war, and we had done nothing to hurt these attackers. Yet, somehow, in their twisted, evil minds, we had. And they reveled in the way that they had managed to secretly pull this attack off.
Now, 17 years later, with so many of our young adults almost unaware of the attacks of September 11, 2001, we find ourselves in a place where many people think it could never happen here again, and yet, our world is actually more dangerous now than it was then. We must always be alert. We must never forget those attacks. Never assume that evil will leave our nation alone, if we try to be nice to it. Appeasement only makes us look vulnerable, and that opens the door to attack. It has been proven time and time again. Just like the picture of the New York skyline on September 10, 2001 seemed so serene, it held a dark secret that would only be revealed in the stark daylight of September 11.
As the fourteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks approached, movies that had been filmed following those horrible events began to show up on television again. I think I’ve already watched each and every one of them, but I always feel compelled to watch them again. It isn’t out of a morbid sense of curiosity, but rather as a reminder that there are people out there who are so evil that it is beyond our ability to comprehend. It is also a way to remind myself that there are heroes out there who set aside self, no matter what the danger, in an effort to save others.
I like to hope that I would be one of those people who come together to save others, but I don’t think that the average citizen really knows what they would do, until they are placed in that position. Our flight instincts seem to be based on just how big a danger we perceive ourselves to be facing. I don’t think that I could leave someone in trouble, but I don’t know how I would feel about actually running into a building like the World Trade Center on September 11.
As I was watching the movie, I was reminded that there were a number of people who were simply never found at the World Trade Center site. Never found!! In fact, there were over 1000 people who were never found. It was like they were simply vaporized. Of course, there might be pieces of them in the many, some small enough to fit in a test tube, pieces of human remains that have not been identified. It is shocking and sad to me to think that there are actually people who have never been given closure concerning their loved ones. All they know is that their loved ones were killed on September 11, 2001. They don’t know if they suffered, or if it was instant. There is simply no way to know. And that is horrifically hard. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but I have a really hard time when I think about the fact that in just a few hours, more than 1,000 people simply disappeared. In our world of DNA matches and so many other methods of identifying people, and so many pieces of bodies that have been found, I just don’t understand how those people could simply be nowhere, but they are. I think that true closure often comes from being able to view the body, and have a funeral using the real body of the loved one. In the absence of that body, the mind plays tricks on us. We hope that maybe they somehow survived and simply have amnesia or something. Even though we know that is probably wrong.
As this fourteenth anniversary of that horrible day arrives, I pray for those who lost loved ones, and those who will never know what happened to their loved ones. I pray that they are able to have emotional closure, even if they can’t have full closure. For the rest of us, I hope that we will never forget what happened that day, the people who died, and the people who did this. Terror and terrorists continue to exist in our world, and they don’t care if their victims were tolerant of their beliefs or not. They have one agenda, and one agenda only, to kill all infidels, because in their minds, that is their obligation and their right. We must stay alert, lest we find ourselves open to another attack.
Every time disaster strikes, it seems like we always remember where we were and what we were doing the moment we found out about it. Moments like September 11, 2001, the Kennedy assassinations, Reagan’s shooting, and for me, the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, are permanently imprinted on my mind. It had been so well televised. It was to be the first time an American civilian was going into space, and she was a teacher. It was an exciting event for America, and especially for the schools and the school children, who felt like they were suddenly center stage within the space program. The nation watched as the Teacher in Space candidates went through the paces to decide which teacher would be chosen. Finally the decision was made, and out of all the candidates, a woman, Christa McAuliffe stood alone as the chosen one. It was exciting for her, the school where she taught, and her family. It was excitement mixed with anxiousness, because there was always that element of danger, that you know is possible, but you never really believe would come to pass…until it does.
I was disappointed that I had to bowl on the morning that had been chosen for the launch of the Challenger. I had hoped that I could catch some of it on the television set the bowling alley had. As secretary of the league, I had duties to perform when I got there, but I was immediately approached by one of the bowlers, who said, “Did you hear that the space shuttle exploded?” It was so unthinkable, that my mind first thought that it exploded before anyone was in it, but deep down, I knew that this was a huge disaster. I prayed that some of them would live through it, while knowing in my heart, that they could not have lived through it. It was hard to bowl that day, but there was nothing else we could do. The televisions were on, and we watched as the explosion was played over and over again. Then we went home, and watched more of it at home. Sometimes, I think that people have a tendency to think that if they watch a disaster over and over, that maybe somehow it will have a different outcome…as irrational as that sounds.
This whole disaster gave me a different view of the space shuttle, and so when we had the opportunity to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, I found the view of the space shuttle, and all it’s inner workings to be the most interesting. Standing inside the shuttle display, I felt a mixture of excitement and a little dread. It wasn’t that I was concerned for me, but rather that the Challenger’s lost astronauts came back to my mind. I felt a tiny bit of their excitement, and yet I knew that they would never get to fully live their dream, but would die tragically just 73 second into the flight. Just a little over a minute into their dream. So close, and yet so suddenly it was over…forever. There would be no second chance for them, and this event would bring a lasting emptiness to their families. Events like these scar the people of nation. We may not think of them every day, but when we are reminded of them, such as today, on the 29th anniversary of the event, we can’t help but to be taken back to the day of the event. We can vividly picture each and every second of it, knowing that the loss of life is enormous…knowing that not only are those who died, gone from their families now, but the families are left to pick up the pieces. And we are left remembering exactly where we were when we heard the tragic news.
Twelve years ago today, our world was changed forever. In my remembrance and that of all living Americans, there has never been never been such an attack…here, on American soil…until September 11, 2001. That day will live in the memories of all the American people who were old enough to remember it, and any who have been told very much about it since. I have to wonder about the people born since that time. Will they understand what that day is all about? Or will they simply see it in the way most of us see things like the Civil War or the American Revolutionary War? Both were events that took place here in America so very long ago, fought on American soil, and yet, they seem more like a storybook event than a real event that is such a big part of our history. I don’t know how that could have been changed in the years following those wars, but with our technology, we should be able to keep the memory of the terrorist attacks in the front of our children’s thoughts, so that as they grow, we don’t lose sight of what the evil in this world can bring about.
I did not know anyone who lost their life on 9-11, but I did know someone who could have been in the middle of that whole thing. My daughter’s friend, Carina, who has been like a third daughter to me since they were in Kindergarten, was a flight attendant during that time with Continental Airlines, based out of New Jersey. She was sick that day, and so was not flying. That did not alleviate her parents’ concerns, because they didn’t know that she was not flying and they couldn’t get a hold of her, because she had turned her phone off. When we knew that she was safe, we all gave a sigh of relief. It is a feeling of relief that we will never forget.
Now twelve years later we are again remembering a horrible terrorist attack against our nation, this time in Benghazi. Our government became too complacent about our safety both here and abroad, and again…people died…on a day when we should have been watchful!!! It is an atrocity!! When will we learn that we cannot forget. There is so much evil in this world and we must remain watchful, or we will be attacked again. Today, I pay tribute to those lost in all of these attacks, and to those who gave their lives trying to help others. Rest in peace.
Tonight we received the news that Usama Bin Laden is dead. As I look back over the last decade, I am amazed at how much has changed. We are a different country than we were before this evil man came on the scene. Bin Laden was a man filled with hate. It was a hatred that was aimed at people of many nations and faiths. Basically this man was insane with his hatred.
With the attacks of September 11, 2001, came a global distrust of others. We were leery of people who looked similar to the 9-11 attackers. We were nervous about anything odd concerning our aircraft. We became untrusting of people of different beliefs and cultures. It had to be, because we had to protect ourselves.
It is a sad thing that people can become so consumed with hate…so possessed!! Usama Bin Laden had become a cancer in the world. And like all cancers the only solution to the problem is to kill it. He would never have stopped. His hatred was so huge that he spent his fortune to recruit people to carry out his evil plans. The world can breathe a collective sigh of relief at his death.
What is unfortunate is that there are others who will continue his hatred and terrorism. Our world has many cells of people who, like Bin Laden, hate Americans and all our allies. We have to continue to be strong in our resolve to rid our world of terrorists. We may never get rid of them, but with each one that is removed, we move the tiniest bit closer to a safer world.