A Solemn Remembrance…

September 11, 2011 by
Filed under: Social Awareness 

This morn­ing I woke up as I do most days. While still in bed, I took a deep breath of fresh air while stretch­ing a lit­tle bit. I then got out of bed and went down stairs to get ready for the day. As I was get­ting a drink of water I remem­bered what day it was. It was 10 years after the day that changed the world of my gen­er­a­tion and the gen­er­a­tion after me for­ever. 10 years ago today I was a few months into a new job at a large south­ern Con­necti­cut insur­ance firm. Fin­ish­ing my cup of cof­fee while at my com­puter ter­mi­nal, I remem­ber I started to get up to walk towards one of the break rooms where the depart­ment kept one of their cof­fee mak­ers. In that same room there was also a cable tele­vi­sion set that was usu­ally set to one of the local news chan­nels. As I rounded the cor­ner of the row my desk was in, I noticed a large num­ber of peo­ple con­gre­gat­ing just out­side the break room. They were stand­ing out­side the room because there was no more space in the room itself. I won­dered what was going on and ask one of my col­leagues who was stand­ing there and he told me a plane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Cen­ter tow­ers in New York City. I almost couldn’t believe it. The image on the tele­vi­sion screen seemed so sur­real. I had grown most of my life in New York City and remem­ber going down to those two tow­ers every cou­ple of years to take the ele­va­tors to the top floor obser­va­to­ries to look at the view from the top. It was a time in my life when I enjoyed tak­ing such short trips with my par­ents into down­town Man­hat­tan. The mem­ory of such short trips flashed in my mind when I saw the smoke bel­low­ing from one of the tow­ers where the plane had col­lided with the tower.

After a few moments of time, the crowd that had gath­ered out­side and within the break room began to shrink. They stood there wit­ness­ing the after­math of what had just hap­pened and say­ing how hor­ri­ble of an acci­dent it was to have a plane crash into one of the World Trade Cen­ter tow­ers. The image of peo­ple begin­ning to walk away from the room and the tele­vi­sion screen to go back to what they were in process of doing a moment ear­lier was also still very clear in my mind. I myself was one of those begin­ning to walk back towards my desk think­ing that I would get a sec­ond cup of cof­fee later on after the crowd in the room had dimin­ished a lit­tle further.

Almost as soon at the crowd was half the size it was when I got there, some­one said that another plane had just struck the other tower of the World Trade Cen­ter. I imme­di­ately turned around and went back to look at the tele­vi­sion screen. The crowd that had gath­ered at the break room was now ever larger than the crowd I saw ear­lier when I first walked to the break room that morn­ing. Every­one had their eyes glued to the screen of the tele­vi­sion. Some­one mut­tered “wow another plane?” at which point I remem­ber stat­ing quite shocked and angry at the same time, “That’s not an acci­dent. We’re being attacked!” I wasn’t even think­ing about the words I was say­ing at the moment. It was just what I was rec­og­niz­ing in the anguish of the moment think­ing out loud.

What Hap­pened?

I was for­tu­nate enough to not have lost any of my fam­ily mem­bers that day, but I did have many friends of mine loose a brother, a sis­ter, a mother, a father, a son or a daugh­ter. Hav­ing grown up in New York City, my fam­ily and I knew many peo­ple there as well as from the sur­round­ing region. In the days and months fol­low­ing, I found that some of the peo­ple I grew up with, with whom I had been friends with for many years since early in my life, were unac­counted for. It wasn’t until later on that I dis­cov­ered that they were also vic­tims of the World Trade Cen­ter attack. Many of them had offices in one of the tow­ers. In just about all cases, they never found any remains. They just became unac­counted for and were never heard from again. Many of them I had gone to school with or hung around my neigh­bor­hood with.

Some­one I knew was then liv­ing in Ire­land and sent word to a mutual friend of ours that they couldn’t get a hold of her sis­ter who also worked in one of the tow­ers. To this day, they don’t know what hap­pened to her. The only thing they do know is that they never found any­thing of hers or heard any­thing from her since that day. For them as for the rest of those with sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances, the answer was just too dread­ful to say out loud.

Today

It’s been 10 Years, and the mem­ory of that day is still with most of my gen­er­a­tion as well as the gen­er­a­tion after­wards. The rea­son I’m say­ing this is that even though I per­son­ally can­not speak for the gen­er­a­tions before mine (the Baby Boomers and the Tra­di­tion­al­ists or Silent Gen­er­a­tion), the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions had World War II, the Cold War and the Korean and Viet­nam wars define part of their gen­er­a­tion. For Gen­er­a­tion X and Gen­er­a­tion Y (Mil­len­ni­als), the attacks that occurred on 9/11 where the first per­sonal expe­ri­ence where an enemy of the coun­try and in this case of West­ern Soci­ety directly attacked us on Amer­i­can soil. More impor­tantly, it was the first time Gen­er­a­tions X and Y expe­ri­enced an event that altered our views of the world directly. Gen­er­a­tion X and Y never per­son­ally expe­ri­enced the Civil Rights marches that showed hun­dreds and even thou­sands of peo­ple across many Amer­i­can cities in ver­bal and often times vio­lent clashed over race. Gen­er­a­tions X and Y never really expe­ri­enced going to war and being forced to join the mil­i­tary in order to fight (the “draft” ended in 1971). World War II, the Korean and Viet­nam Wars were part of a his­tory that we learned while in school. To many of us, it was ancient his­tory show­ing a world that Gen­er­a­tions X and Y no longer needed to be wor­ried about occurring…or so we thought. 9/11 is what has now defined part of Gen­er­a­tion X and Gen­er­a­tion Y.

Com­ing Back Strong

The mem­ory of what hap­pened on 9/11/2001 has caused a new Amer­ica to be born. In a great irony, what hap­pened on that late sum­mer day not only caused great sor­row, it caused the peo­ple of the United States to unite together in a strong front against an enemy that hates free­dom and just about every­thing that West­ern cul­ture (and a large part of East­ern cul­tures today also) stands for. For the first time in a few gen­er­a­tions, the entire coun­try and its var­i­ous gov­ern­ment bod­ies stood together in one voice, ignor­ing all polit­i­cal party bound­aries, say­ing that “We are Amer­i­cans and we will not be tram­pled on.” The image of all the mem­bers of con­gress stand­ing on the steps of the cap­i­tal build­ing look­ing into the tele­vi­sion cam­era and in one voice say­ing the above was an extremely pow­er­ful image that I will also never forget.

As time goes on, the mem­o­ries of that day ten years ago move fur­ther into the pages of history.  It’s my hope that peo­ple and future gen­er­a­tions don’t begin to for­get, as is unfor­tu­nately often the case, the hard lessons many learned that day. I won’t say what those lessons are in this post because there are many and I do not want to place one person’s learned les­son above another.  Two lessons that I hope every­one at least learn are: (1) life is too short to not enjoy it and appre­ci­ate what one has and (2) every­thing we do as indi­vid­u­als affects oth­ers in one way, shape or form whether we want it to or not.

Peace…

Pic­tures: 9/11 ten years later

(Author’s Note: this post is not intended to be a polit­i­cal state­ment of any kind so please do not turn it into one…Thank you.)

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