Instant Replay: Memories of 9/11

11 Sep

When do you think about Sept. 11, 2001? For me, it is every time I happen to glance at the clock and see the numbers that make up our national emergency number that was so cruelly mocked that day. 9:11. Morning or night, that is the association I have.

Of course, anniversaries always bring even more reflection on the tragedy of 11 years ago. As I listened to Sports Radio 810 this morning, they took a moment of silence. Driving to Kansas State football media availability this afternoon, I turned down the blaring country music as I noticed the flag whipping at half mast beside the fire station on the other side of the intersection. I’m not exactly sure why I felt I needed to turn down the volume.

Maybe it is because reminders of 9/11 put all our diversions in their proper place very quickly.

I saw a special program on TV the other day, showing interviews of people who had been inside the World Trade Center, replaying footage of the buildings burning and the terrified reactions of people on the ground. I watched for a minute but quickly changed the channel.

Replaying the footage we’ve all seen so many times, it is bizarre how recent that day seems.

I was in fifth grade on Sept. 11, 2001. I attended a small private school, so my classroom was actually a trailer outside the main building. I recall someone coming in and speaking to my teacher. What she told us was that a plane had run into a building. Of course, that sounded bad, but I had no real grasp of the situation – not that the building was a major center of commerce in the United States, not that the plane had been a commercial airline and certainly not that the plane had been hijacked and then crashed intentionally.

When I got home, my family watched the news footage together. Buildings burned, billowing smoke, then collapsed. Before, people jumped out of them. I cried and cried. There was this horrible, gripping sense of despair. It scared me that this kind of evil existed in the world, that loved ones could be taken at any minute for no understandable reason, for nothing they had done.

The sacrifices of policemen, firemen and many others stand as an inspiration for all of us. What they do on a daily basis, they did in a worse crisis than anyone could have imagined, and they did it wholeheartedly. Putting one’s life at risk for others is something not everyone can or will do, but we have people who did it over and over. That makes me so proud and so grateful.

Followed by all the horror, all the loss, a sense of community arose among Americans that I do not know I had ever seen before and which I have not seen since. Stores ran out of flags because so many people wanted them to show support. Blood banks had to ask people to stop giving because they had no more refrigeration for all the donations. Politicians stopped making nasty digs at each other and focused on healing the heart of a broken nation. The resilience shown by the United States was remarkable. Our country is far from perfect, but I never want to be anywhere else.

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