Do You Remember?

Like you, I remember it well. Being at work for just a half hour or so when one of my co-workers said, “Did you hear what just happened?!!” Going into the kitchen area for my morning coffee I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A plane flying into a building in New York City? How in the world….

Then the announcer talked about it possibly being deliberate. How?

Then another co-worker came in, and in quiet disgust said the words I still remember….”Bin-Laden.” Little did we know how right he was at the time.

Our daughter was in school; we didn’t know what was going to happen next, and if we needed to go get her, or what. After all, living in a military area such as Hampton Roads with the world’s largest naval base, if it were an attack, would we be next?

I called a friend whose daughter was in the same class as ours. She was still active duty Navy but had that day off for some reason. She didn’t know what had happened until I called her, and told her to turn on her television.

That’s how I heard about the second plane, as she watched in horror as it happened. “I have to call the base!” she said. “I’ll have to go in. The kids? What about our kids?” Because they attended a private school at the time which had many military families enrolled, that school, like most of the others in our area, was most likely being dismissed early as a precaution.

She agreed to pick up our children and take them to our house, with overnight bags just in case. Since the girls were old enough to be by themselves as well as take care of our daughter’s friend’s younger brother, I didn’t have to rush home, as much as I wanted to.

By that time rumors and stories were flying around the office. Some true, some not. But at the time we had no idea. A plane hitting buildings in Washington. One crashing in Pennsylvania. Planes being shot down? Los Angeles under siege? Trains being derailed?

Fortunately most of those stories were just that…stories and rumors. Because the truth was bad enough.

Not much work was done that morning, and most of us had left the office by noon. Like many others, I spent the afternoon numbly watching the horrific events in New York, as people tried to find friends and loved ones. I watched people running up and down streets in fear, and watched over and over as the brave first responders tried desperately to save lives, and in many circumstances losing their own in the attempt.

I still remember sitting there with our 12 year old daughter, her best friend and her younger brother, trying to explain that we’d be ok; no one was coming here to attack us (or so I hoped), and trying to reassure my friend’s children that their parents, both who were active duty military at the time, wouldn’t be in danger.

None of us knew that day what the future held. We were stunned, shocked, scared, and angry. We held our loved ones a little closer that night, especially as we listened to the stories of those who’d lost their friends and loved ones so tragically, recount their last conversations with them, last emails, last cell phone messages….so many who knew they weren’t going to make it, and had to to say goodbye…

It was a horrific, awful, and totally unexpected day. We were all in shock and disbelief. Our country had been brutally attacked. For no reason except that others hated what we stood for. They hated our freedom, our lifestyle.

I cannot imagine hating someone or some group of people so very much that someone else would be willing to kill themselves so they could kill the others they hated. The entire idea is incomprehensible to me.

The images that we saw that day will forever be etched into our minds. We just cannot forget them. Nor should we.

One thing did come out of all of the misery and heartache. We were, at least for awhile, a nation united. United in our grief and our disbelief. United in our desire to help those who were suffering so badly. United in our desire to see those responsible brought to justice.

Today, on this 16th anniversary of the day that changed our nation, we remember those whose lives were lost, simply because they were in buildings or on airplanes that were targeted for destruction by people who hated us. They had no idea who any of these people were, men, women, and children, and most likely they did not care that they, too, had families and friends who loved them; that they had no say in the decisions that were made by others to end all of their lives, just to prove their point.

We remember the first responders who risked their own lives to save others, many of whom died in the process.

We remember the survivors of the buildings that were hit, and wonder to this day how they feel on each anniversary of this tragedy.

We remember the spouses, friends, and children of those who were lost. Especially the children who were deprived of the opportunity to grow up with both parents in their lives. Many of whom are most likely married by now with children of their own, children who were deprived of grandparents who never had an opportunity to know them.

Today let us remember not only what happened, how it made us feel, and what it put our nation through, but remember the people who were personally affected by this tragedy. The people who lost those dear to them, in a senseless act of terror. Whose lives can never be replaced. They sacrificed all, most without volunteering to put their lives at risk for their country. They were people just like you and me, who left home for a normal day at work, with plans for that night, the weekend. They had birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate. Weddings and graduations to attend.

None of that was to happen. Their plans were changed by others.

Today, let’s remember everyone affected by this tragedy. Let’s not let these lost lives be lost in vain.

May God bless their memories, their families, and may God bless our United States of America.

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