Most of us around the world remember 9/11. We remember where we were, what we were doing, and how we found out about the attacks on our country and our people...we remember.
After you read what I've written during my heavy-hearted state of remembrance, I would like to know where you were when you discovered America was under attack...what were you doing and how did you first learn of these horrible truths? Each of us has an account of this historic tragedy and we should make our voices heard. Take as much time and space as you need to respond and if you are from another country, we'd still like to hear your version because this tragedy impacted peoples beyond America.
I learned of this attack during a very challenging time in my life. I had become seriously ill and was deteriorating quickly. On September 11, 2001, I could not know that within a month's time that I would be 33 years old and lying in a hospital bed, coding. But, on this fateful morning, I had made the difficult decision to drive my kids to school, even though my body was extremely weak. I wanted to do normal "mommy" things because it was becoming more and more difficult, for some reason. I just wanted to drive my kids to school.
My husband listens to AM Talk News and the radio dial just happened to be on his station as we got in the car. We didn't change the station and this was unusual because we girls always put the music on right away. As I was pulling into the Elementary school's parking lot drop-off lane, I heard the announcer say that the World Trade Center just had a "small" plane fly into it by accident. It was reported with a rather callous attitude that is so typical of big city news reporters...just another unfortunate accident to report.
Then, I suppose because the event seemed to be more newsworthy than initially believed, the station hooked the news reporter by phone to an eye-witness of the events - he'd called in and had a bird's eye view of the entire scene since he lived in a highrise adjacent to the World Trade Center. The caller was giving a vivid verbal description of what he'd seen so far and about how shocking it was to see the building burning. He even told the main news reporter that he did not believe it was a small plane that had crashed, but he believed it to have resembled a commercial jetliner.
I had dropped off my youngest and had turned the volume up as loud as I could stand. My car was stuck in the middle of jam-packed school traffic as I was waiting for my turn at the stop sign. Tension filled my body as I listened to this caller's wise, honest words. And as he was giving a repeat account of what he'd seen from his window during the first plane crash, his voice filled with horror and screams as he began to say that he'd just seen another plane, a large plane that looked commercial, probably with passengers, and it had just flown into the other building. He could feel the heat from the raging inferno. He had to get out of there. He was screaming and losing the ability to relay information due to rising panic. His voice was so filled with horror and terror that I was in disbelief.
The news station cut off the eye-witness account because of his disturbing description and because the fear in his voice was contagious. The station's reporter came back on and tried to say that there has somehow been two tragic accidents involving aircraft and that the weather or something must have caused the tragedies. I hit my steering wheel and yelled, "These were NOT DAMN ACCIDENTS!" I knew these were terrorists acts. I'd lived with a husband who served in the military on special duty as an Anti-Terrorist Police...I knew for years and years that America was living on borrowed time and that the terrorism would soon hit our shores. But, frankly, I thought it would start with bombings such as London and Paris had experienced for so long...bombs in trash cans, at sidewalk cafes, etc., but this act of terrorism went beyond what I had imagined would take place.
Within a couple of minutes after the stammering reporter had tried to convince himself and his listeners, with hope, that these were "accidents," the images would be on every television station and all illusions of these being "accidents" were shattered. You could hear the devastation in his voice as another announcer joined him and slowly edged him out. I'm sure he didn't even know what to say as he sat and watched the horrible scene, live.
Thank goodness that before the 2nd plane had hit (I believe) my daughter had exited the car. I didn't have any idea that the attacks would continue. I had kissed her goodbye with the hopes that our day would not be devastated by these events...life is full of tragedy and we must keep going to the best of our ability.
My body was shaking. I remember stumbling when I exited my car to walk inside the house. My ears were ringing from the loud static filled news I'd been listening to for the past fifteen minutes. I walked in the door to find my husband in our bedroom watching television and the screen was showing the replays of the buildings being hit by planes. The replays were continuous, as if we would not absorb the reality. Strangely, my husband had the day off of work. It was supposed to be a day of us relaxing and enjoying solitude, probably with him going fishing. But, as we watched the live reports of the building in flames...we both knew, along with millions of others watching their televisions, that there would be no way fire and police rescue would be able to find much success with that level of destruction at such heights. I sat and cried, but Deputy Dave, at one point, jumped up and left the room. He had to go to the garage and find something to do with his hands. He was filled with a burst of rage. I think everyone felt helpless.
Little did we know, as we again sat together to watch the continuing destruction, that the buildings would fall out of the sky. America would never be the same. My children complained that afternoon because they had wanted me to pick them up from school during the day. But, I didn't. For good reason, I didn't want to give in at our level to the terrorist devastation. I did let them stay home the following day, but we each have memories of being in our particular place in time, as we were living our regular lives with such unthinkable acts taking place so far from Texas, yet so close to our hearts.
These devastating times will forever be locked into our memories, but the memorials being built to honor the innocent victims of these terrorist attacks will serve a great purpose to help future generations recall how regular people murdered that day throughout our nation became eternal heros.
Indeed, with the exception of some stanch military people at the Pentagon, most of the people killed during the 9/11 attacks never imagined, in their possible fear and suffering, that they would ever earn the title of "hero." The grandma going to see her grandchildren could not imagine she would die a hero. She thought herself to be a simple grandma. The young father and businessman did not see himself as a hero, he had taken the corporate route and was enjoying the fruits of his labor after so many years dedicated to furthering his education. No, he might have seen himself as determined, but not heroic. So many people, just like us, ordinary people, but they transformed that day from ordinary to extraordinary due to their horrific circumstances. In an instant...they became the hero in our eyes because it could have indeed been any one of us standing in our office, doing our daily job, yet finding ourselves under an unfair, horrendous attack.
Nonetheless, their tragic fates became our cry out for justice and for recognition of their ultimate sacrifice. All of the people that were lost to 9/11 will be remembered as those who represent us ordinary people. They were the ones who will be forever remembered because they were sacrificed while embracing democracy and its ideals...being able to purchase a ticket to your desired destination, being able to work at the level you worked hard to achieve following stringent personal dedication; being able to serve your country because it is your choice to do so; being able to be a proud mom because you know it makes a positive difference...each person that day represented our freedoms and the beauty it offers.
A twisted set of minds found themselves compelled to express the most ultimate form of hate against our freedoms...those minds would be the weak chain without understanding as the strength of energy and passion of enduring freedom surrounded the innocent ones lost to madness. The innocent ones would be our focus and they would earn our respect with eternal honor.
For us citizens in America, we found our hearts being torn out on this day as many of us watched as our fellow Americans...our family, our friends, our neighbors, co-workers, and ordinary people like us...die because of warped, evil mindsets.
But, we must not forget. This tragedy occurred on American soil, but people representing 90 other countries were impacted by this loss. The terrorists did not isolate their evil intentions upon America...they inflicted random, indiscriminate terror upon innocent civilians who were simply trying to go about their normal day. However, after 9/11, nothing would be "normal" again as ordinary citizens realized that they too might be called to duty, at any given moment. The duty would be unimaginable, allowing for no preparation and with no training or opportunity to get one's final affairs in order as a precaution. How do you defend yourself when confronted by a terrorist on the plane you are flying in?
Sadly, our fellow civilians found themselves under attack of vicious people who have no morals and no room for God in their hearts. When these terrorists link God in the same paragraph as their reasoning for inflicting murderous intentions and terror upon innocent civilians...do not believe their lies. God is not linked with such evil minds. Those plots of the foundations of man's dark, selfish desires...not of, for, by or in the name of God. I feel rather certain that God does not appreciate being used for their selfish, distorted need for attention and for their lost causes. These examples of warped minds demonstrate that rogue free-will can opt to do foul things. Free-will should not be used to hurt others. To inflict harm upon the innocent is the most cowardly, selfish act one can imagine.
Often, I get choked up when I think about the Pennsylvania crash...of Flight 93 wrapped around those people who had purchased tickets to get on that plane and be transported to their desired locations, but they never imagined they were buying a ticket to terror. And who could have imagined that their final democratic voice would be heard loud and clear around the world? I think about those people in the cabin, knowing they were hijacked, knowing the country had already suffered "bombings" by commercial airliners...just like the one they found themselves flying in. They knew something had to be done because they were essentially doomed, any action would be better than no action...so they took a vote. A vote. Under tremendous duress, the passengers took a vote to decide whether or not to take immediate action.
This vote strikes me as such an integral symbol of living with the freedom to make a unified decision. Until the end, in an ironic manner, the people on that plane were respecting the right to exercise their judgment and their passion and their beliefs through a vote. We know what the result was of that particular poll booth. This is the kind of vote none of us would want to face having to make. Such decisions and votes prove that having a voice is worth fighting and dying for. They had one of two choices...go down and allow the terrorists to succeed in taking out another American icon with hundreds and possibly thousands more with their plot or to decide to put a stop to the plot. I find it disturbing, yet highly honorable that their final voting booth was the plane. But, the decisive vote meant that they would not go out without waging war against the injustice being committed against innocent civilians. Innocent civilians that included all of them. Defense of their own lives became a matter to be handled directly.
I'm touched that civilians protected their fellow civilians on that day. First responders were the American People. Those ticket holders did more to protect, to honor, to uphold and to promote freedom and democracy than anything I can imagine. On the ground in the areas under attack, regular people were helping their fellow citizens.
Yet still, I am awestruck that under unthinkable conditions and certain fear, the passengers of Flight 93 became our heros. Not only did they save America from enduring another devastating strike, their voices were heard loud and clear around the world, in historic fashion. Their vote drowned out any evil intention of any terrorist. Their voice ended up as the most powerful one of all, the voice that embraced the freedom to vote and to take action against injustice.
The advanced warning that these passengers were duplistically fortunate enough and unfortunate enough to discover gave them the burning fire to act with bravery and with the understanding that their situation was dire, but those passengers refused to go out helpless. And so, they served us, the people...they protected the people who would have otherwise been murdered on the ground as well as in the plane. Those ticket holders on that doomed flight allowed the people who would have been targeted on the ground to have the chance to live another day and to buy many more tickets in pursuit of their own fulfilled dreams.
I'm so struck by the concept of their final ticket being our ticket to continued freedom and to letting the terrorists know that the American Spirit is collective, powerful and unable to be stifled; we still hear the cries of our heros loud and clear; we will continue to hear their vote forever, and we are thankful that American freedoms were exercised in the middle of terrorism that failed to do their evil intent on board that flight. Flight 93 had informed passengers who would not allow the terrorism to go further than their own suffering fate.
Sometimes, there is a horrendous crime in Harris County and it ends up in my husband's courtroom. I'll watch news footage about the case and be horrified while asking, "How could this person have done these things."
Many years ago, my husband shared some strangely poignant words with me, he said, "Quit trying to understand what they did...you'll never be able to understand how and why they did what they did because you don't have a criminal mindset."
The terrorist's cause is forever lost...there is no understanding...their deeds had no purpose because such evil can never make sense. I do agree that there is a time for peace and a time for war, but pretending to be a passenger and then taking innocent people, including children, hostage so that more civilians can be murdered is not strategic war-time action...it is a sucker-punch of the worst kind by the coward who knows that their opponent is fiercely capable. On our end, we are compelled to consider the catastrophic loss of innocent human life. We do not contemplate the terrorist's cause because they have no reasoning. As the old saying goes, "You cannot reason with the unreasonable." The random brutality of their actions that included ordinary, regular people to include the elderly, women, and children is the darkest kind of destruction.
As President Bush said in a speech following the attack on 9/11, "Freedom itself was attacked this morning, by a Faceless Coward."
The freedom of Americans...the freedom of our right to go about our daily life, to go to an appointment in the heart of your city, to go to work to sit behind a desk all day, to take a flight to see your family, the freedom to be an ordinary citizen of your country...the terrorist tried to snatch away our freedoms and the enjoyment they bring. But, they did not succeed.
Rudy Giuliani, in a speech after 9/11 said, "American democracy is much stronger than a vicious cowardly terrorist."
Some acts, some causes, and some behaviors have absolutely no justification, no reasoning, and no excuses. None.
Sometimes we're better off simply handing out justice instead of trying to dissect the criminal for an "ah-ha" moment. Yes, I know, the "ah-ha" moments may help prevent others from occurring, but nothing can justify certain actions. There are some criminals you must look out for while knowing that their random destruction has no rhyme or reason, only evil intent to destroy.
As my husband tells me about criminals...the same goes for murderous homicidal suicidal terrorists. We cannot understand their maniacal way of thinking. There is no explanation they could give that would make their actions make sense. There is no God who would condone such actions. There are no causes that would make the attack of thousands of innocent people worth the sinister efforts of faceless cowards.
It is a spineless, shameful thing to be responsible for the deaths of innocent people...our grandmothers, young mothers, brave fathers and little innocent children.
And so...the voices of those who died and those who helped others while being able to live to talk about it and those who suffered great losses of loved ones, of friends and of people who can never be replaced...all of these voices are the ones to last. Their memories and our stories are our strength...our own collective voice about this day that will fill us with compassion for those who never wanted to be called a "hero."