Remembering September 11th, 2001
On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I woke up about 15 minutes after the the first airplane struck the North Tower. I was a college sophomore living in the sorority house, and on that particular morning, I woke from the sound of radio music rather than the usual beeping of my alarm clock.
After I returned from the bathroom, the DJ announced that the World Trade Center had been struck by a plane and many thought it might be a terrorist attack. The South Tower was still untouched. I peeked outside my bedroom's door and down the hall. I didn't see much movement. It was still early. I turned off the radio and quickly finished getting ready for class. As I left my room, I noticed a few sorority sisters hovered around the small television at the end of the hallway. I told myself that I'd head to campus to find out what was going on.
Throughout the day, I stood around several different TVs watching in horror the aftermath of the attacks. Images of the fires, smoke, people jumping from windows and the chaos at Ground Zero are seared to my memory. I vividly remember television journalists' raw emotions while reporting this catastrophic historical event in real time.
"Images of fire, smoke, people jumping out of windows and the chaos at Ground Zero are seared to my memory."
To this day, when I watch footage from September 11th, I experience the familiar feelings of immense sorrow, fear and patriotism. In the hours and days after the attacks, our country pulled together to comfort and counsel one another. We were courageous, brave and resolute -- the hallmarks of an American. We were united because we had a common enemy that took too many of our own.
One particular memory I will never forget was on September 12th. During my first class that morning, the feelings of somberness and disbelief were palpable. Comprised of a couple hundred students, a handful of journalism professors team-taught the class. We spent the class period discussing the previous day's events and the media's coverage. The professors shared their thoughts and relayed stories shared with them by colleagues still working as reporters. We had honest and meaningful conversations in the large lecture hall.
One of the professors was an avid fan of an MLB American League team and never shied away from his disdain for the New York Yankees. Everyone knew where his loyalties lay. In an act of solidarity, in front of all of us, he put on a Yankees hat and announced that today we were all New Yorkers. The lines of separation dissolved. Our hearts were with New York and our fellow Americans.
"The lines of separation dissolved. Our hearts were with New York and our fellow Americans."
Three years ago, my family visited the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. I will never be able to muster adequate words to describe it but I'll try: harrowing, humbling, beautiful and thoughtful. Every image, artifact, structure and word of comfort breathtakingly memorialize the lives lost and the brave search and rescue efforts. Many of the tour guides welcome visitors from all over the world and share personal stories connected to 9/11. It's remarkable.
My father lost a childhood friend in the South Tower. Before our visit, my parents had visited the Memorial & Museum once before. Each time my dad found his friend's name on the Memorial where the South Tower once stood. Inside the Museum, he located his friend's photograph in the large meditation room where the walls are covered with headshots of about 3,000 victims.
Our current political and social climates have come so far since those late days and months of 2001. We are divided, in what some have said, unlike any other modern time. Reflecting on September 11th resurfaces so many difficult emotions, however, I am hopeful that we can work to find common ground despite the deep polarization. We must start by viewing each other as fellow Americans and not enemies separated by our differences. My prayer is that we can respect each other as we strive to become a country that lives out its ideals.
We have much work to do. It won't be easy. I believe we can take on the issues plaguing our country, but we must practice mutual respect, dignity and a willingness to listen and learn from one another. It is the only way we can move forward and leave our children a country they can be proud of.
May we never forget 9/11 and always remember those we lost and the millions whose lives were forever changed.