A Solemn Remembrance…
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.
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.
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.
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.)