Do you remember what you were doing when you heard that the first tower had been hit? Do you remember knowing that it was not an accident but wanting so much for it to be one? Do you remember watching the second plane hit and knowing in your heart that a terroristic act of prodigious proportions had just taken place on American soil? Do you remember when life as we knew it was irrevocably changed forever?
I am a former Department of Defense (DoD) employee. I was at work on 9/11/01 and by the time the second plane hit our force protection condition had been raised and our gates were locked. The headquarters for my installation is located in the Pentagon and we soon received notification that a plane had flown into the iconic five sided building that houses high ranking DoD officials … a building that many of us had visited on multiple occasions. Like all the rest of the country, I was very afraid.
When PolitiChicks Editor Ann-Marie Murrell asked us for 9/11 articles my first thought was to write about the people who hijacked the planes. The Muslim terrorists who hate America were going to be my focal point and I wanted to link that with what is happening today. But you know what? That has been done on every news source available and I have nothing new to add, so I am going to speak from my heart.
I am a perfect tourist. I believe “when in Rome” and I love to do all the touristy things in every city I visit. Unfortunately I had never been to New York prior to 9/11/01. My first visit was in 2006 when my husband and I flew into Newark on Christmas Day. We stayed in Times Square and saw “Phantom” and the “Rockettes”. We rode the Staten Island Ferry to get a view of Lady Liberty and we ate everywhere from street vendors to fancy NY restaurants. On our last full day in the city we went to Ground Zero. There was no memorial, only construction and graffiti and a feeling of heaviness in the air. I felt as though I could not breathe. Through my own tears I saw tears mirrored in my husband’s eyes. The silence was palpable. The reverence of the people around us was irrepressible. The graffiti was respectful, profound and in some cases a work of art. But the one piece that has forever touched my heart was the one with this poignant thought- “Best we learn from this or we burn from this”. I know of no better time than the present to learn. I will visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in time but I do not think any visit will ever compare with my first to the site of this horrific event.
A few years later, in 2010, my friend Robyn Cox and I were in D.C. to attend training. On Wednesday afternoon we got out of class early so we hopped on the Metro and headed to the Pentagon. I have been fortunate to have visited this area many times through the years but this was my first visit to the Pentagon since completion of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. I was awestruck at the tranquility in the midst of chaos. It is loud, there is traffic, and people are scurrying to the metro and to their cars. There were workmen tearing out some of the concrete that had buckled, yet as I looked around I did not hear a thing. All I saw were the names of the 184 lives that were needlessly taken that day. At the memorial each victim has their name, age and location at the time of the terrorist attack permanently inscribed into the Memorial by the unique placement and direction of each of the markers. From the website of the memorial; “Elegant and simple, the Pentagon Memorial serves as a timeline of the victims’ ages, spanning from the youngest victim, three-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was on board American Airlines Flight 77, to the oldest, John D. Yamnicky, 71, a Navy veteran, also aboard Flight 77 that morning.”
I love this image that I captured on my visit to the Memorial. The plane in the background seems a statement to me that the terrorists did not win!
I would like for your “take away” from this article to be the one thing that we have heard over and over these past 12 years — WE MUST NEVER FORGET. We can always learn from history whether it is recent or ancient; yet the leaders of our country seem to be determined to make decisions which prove philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) was correct when he stated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
Where were you when the world stopped turning?