The numbers 9 & 11 never used to mean anything very significant. Of course, “911” put together was the number to signify an emergency, but no one could ever dream of what kind of emergency would arise on 9/11.
Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing during that fateful day. For me, it was a gorgeous Tuesday morning. The weather was spectacular and cool for Austin, Texas. I was married at the time and my husband and daughter and I had just flown in at midnight the night before from my best friend’s wedding. It was in New York, of all places.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that my daughter was only 3 at the time, I think we would have stayed beyond the weekend to enjoy the sites of New York City. Instead, we opted to come home and do it another time. We were tired from traveling all day on Monday, and I was trying to get everything unpacked. My husband was on the computers getting the day started day trading. We had just dropped our daughter off at preschool.
The television was on and I was making my way past it with a load of laundry. I remember looking over and seeing breaking news and a burning building. I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized it was one of the Twin Towers. I dropped the clothes and stared at the television. I began praying, terrified for the trapped victims.
Suddenly out of nowhere, a plane hit the second tower. I ran into my husband’s office and said, “Our country is under attack!” It was immediately obvious to me.
The sequence of events that followed is a blur. The Pentagon was hit, a plane crashed in Pennsylvania, both of the Twin Towers were burning. Other planes might be hijacked. We began to make frantic phone calls checking on other members of the wedding party who might still be in New York, a cousin who was a pilot for American Airlines to find out if he was flying that day, and all sorts of other friends whose safety might have been in jeopardy.
I sat down in front of the television in tears, trying to wrap my head around what was happening. Then I saw the most horrific sight I have ever witnessed: One of the Twin Towers collapsed. I think my heart caved in with it. All I could do was imagine how many innocent people were dying in that moment. I was literally holding my breath, praying like never before that as many people as possible could escape that other building before it collapsed, too.
I remember hating myself for asking my husband what the stock market was doing. I knew that when so many people’s lives were being destroyed, we were probably making fortunes if he was shorting the market. It was obvious to me that the market would crash big that day. My husband was glued to the television unresponsive. I think we were both in shock. I wondered if it was someone’s deliberate plan to tank the market to wreck our economy for financial gain as I realized how easy the stock market would be to manipulate. We never made any money that day. My husband could not do anything but watch the news, and I was glad we didn’t cash in on everyone else’s misery. We just sat glued to the TV, waiting to see what would happen next.
Then a news broadcaster said that every major city was a potential target. There was talk about Boston but we thought they said Austin. Alarm bells were going off. We decided that we had to get our daughter out of school as quickly as possible. As we raced to the school, we talked about action plans and called family about a having a meeting point far away from major cities if need be.
I remember wondering if we would ever live without fear again. Soon afterwards there was the Anthrax scare and it seemed as though life as we knew it would never return. I cried for the children around the world who deserved to grow up in peace.
Later, when we watched the troops march into Iraq, all I could think of was how terrifying it was for the children. For the parents of those fighting and the ones on the ground who just wanted to keep them safe, I felt sick at that so many innocent people had to pay the price and sacrifice for their governments.
Back at home I watched the stories unfold of all the innocent people killed during the 9/11 attacks. Firefighters, clergy, office workers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, parents, friends…just everyday people who got up and went to work or got on airplanes to travel like we just did on a beautiful Tuesday morning. I felt such anger towards the terrorists responsible for all of it.
The most poignant moment came later when over 100 members of Congress gathered in front of the Capitol. They were Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, standing there shoulder to shoulder. They began to sing “God Bless America” in unison, and it wasn’t even apparent at the time that it was unplanned. I guess it was a passion they felt, a love for our country, something everyone was feeling at the time that moved them. They seemed to speak for everyone in the country at that time saying: “We are all Americans. No one can take that away.”
In the same way that we all came together then, I know in my heart that people across the country would join together again if such a tragedy arose. We celebrate our differences and we argue passionately for what we feel is right; however, at the end of the day, the majority of us still believe in helping our neighbor and doing for others no matter what religion, ethnicity, or political persuasion.
That is the greatest lesson that I learned that day. Our country is strong, full of passion, and amazingly resilient. Our country is not defined as one singular place or type of people; rather, it is the union of millions of different lives that bring the puzzle pieces together to form one great, big, beautiful picture.
After the tragedy of 9/11, the names of singular people like Todd Beamer are forever etched into our hearts and minds. I don’t know if he was a Republican or a Democrat. I just know he loved his wife and family and that he was and will forever be a hero because of what he did that day.
Our country is the greatest country in the world. It will stay that way, and we will find a way to work through our struggles. Some of us are Republicans, some Democrats and some just don’t care.
We are Americans.
This November election is approaching and many believe it is the most important election of our lifetimes. For everyone who believes that, I pray you get out and vote and let your voices be heard.
In the words of Todd Beamer, “Are you guys ready? Okay, let’s roll!” We have to go forward in our convictions, be brave, and never forget what we stand for. God bless, and God bless America!