On Sunday, Sept. 11, millions of Americans will probably go about their daily lives. Some may stop brieﬂ y and think about the date, others might not think about it at all. And some will stop and reﬂect on that fateful day 10 years ago when the world, as most Americans knew it, exploded.
For most of us, up until 9/11, bombs exploding in our streets were a foreign concept. We went about our business in a somewhat protective cocoon believing those kinds of things only happened in dusty cities in the Middle East. We watched it play out like a movie in our evening news. It was not our reality.
Some will argue that unless you were in the World Trade Center, on Flight 93 or in the Pentagon, it still isn’t our reality. But they would be wrong.
With almost crystal clarity, I can remember the moments of 9/11 and how they unfolded. I remember the curiosity most people expressed when the ﬁrst plane hit the towers. Someone, it might have been me, said something about another drunk ﬂight crew.
We shook our heads and said how awful it was for the people in the building and went back to work. I glanced up at the television in my ofﬁ ce and saw the second plane ﬂ y into the building. And then the absolute terror of what was happening began to set in.
My friend Jane Davis, the then Womack commander’s wife, came into my ofﬁ ce, her eyes full of tears, her voice bereft of hope. My co-worker — my sister of the heart — JoAnn Hooker rocked back and forth uttering prayers for those in harm’s way.
And I watched silently as the story unfolded before us. And I felt my heart shatter.
I’m sure those same reactions were played out in ofﬁces and homes throughout our country on 9/11.
People sought solace and hope in a number of ways. Church doors were thrown open and people huddled together in prayer to try to make sense of the situation.
Many wrapped themselves in the ﬂag and took to the streets.
Others of us stayed glued to the television, and even though we were miles away, we wept at every heartbreaking scene that ﬂ ashed before our eyes.
Yes, we picked ourselves up and returned to our jobs on Sept. 12 — or in the case of Fort Bragg, we tried to return to our jobs but wound up spending the day on All-American. But we were not the same people we were on the morning of 9/11.
We were not innocent, and we were no longer safe.
The ﬁrst time I saw a low ﬂ ying plane near Fort Bragg, I had a panic attack.
At the ﬁrst large public event I went to, I begged my husband to leave when a group of young Middle Eastern men sat behind us. I was terriﬁed beyond reason. My husband took me by the hand and said, “We are staying. If we leave, then they’ve won.”
He was right.
And like countless other Americans, I began to lose my fear, and by staying, I made a very small, very private stand.
Those small personal stands were happening all over America. For many young people, it manifested in enlistments in the military. Others chose to go to New York and volunteer. That is what my friend Jane did. She provided medical gear to the men working at Ground Zero. As she emailed back to tell us about her work, I heard hope in her voice again.
They were small victories that helped us make sense of that day.
Now 10 years later, we are a different America. We are an America that has lived through a decade of conﬂ ict. We have seen our husbands, sons and daughters pay the price for our freedom with their blood.
How will you remember 9/11? Will you remember the despair or the small triumphs? We are choosing the latter.
On the morning of 9/11, Stephen Siller, a New York ﬁReman was heading out of the city, his shift complete. When he heard about the plane hitting the tower, he tried to go back into the city, but he wound up stuck in trafﬁ c in one of the tunnels. He grabbed his gear, all 75 pounds of it, and ran almost two-miles back to the tower. He never came out.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2011, my family and some of our friends will be in Wilmington to participate in the Tunnel to Tower Run to commemorate the lives of the ﬁrst responders like Stephen who ran into the ﬁre while others were running out.What will you do?