When I was five I used to walk down to the corner with my mother in NYC and take the bus to her job at the World Trade Center.
I never realized how important those buildings were to me until over a decade later I was watching people jump out of them, while they were covered in flames and smoke, from my parent’s 60” box TV.
Photo by David Surowiecki
I’d been sent home from high school. I don’t remember how I got home but I remember walking down the hall at school and watching everyone crying, hurrying and in a state of panic. I can’t forget the look on all the teachers' faces. Like they knew they had to hold it together but they couldn’t and they were terrified.
We lived in a commuter town to NYC, which meant most of the kids around me had parents who worked in the city, including my own father, who was in Manhattan on that day.
I remember shaking on the inside as I stood there watching it all unfold on our big box living room TV. I can feel that feeling now. Not very far off from the feeling I get when the Pledge of Allegiance is being sung or when a scene in a movie has my adrenaline pumping but different - more dark.
There were so many memories that all of sudden carried a different type of weight.
Going to daycare on the first floor - watching a play of the Boy who cried Wolf. I remember leaning against the glass wall by my mom’s office, paralyzed in fear, from the sheer height of the building and the view of the city at my nose. For some reason I still did it every time I was there, as if I couldn’t turn away from something that scared me so much.
Everyone in my family either worked at the Trade Center at one time or another or knew someone who did and there were plenty we knew who were there that day. There were so many businesses in those towers - to be a New Yorker meant you were tied to it - like it or not.
Photo by Patrick Witty
After that day, car trips on the way to my grandparents or rides home from the airport came with a reminder of the missing buildings in the Skyline I had grown so connected to.
There was no going back. The world changed, almost instantly.
The War on Terror. The Taliban. An extremist group that had plagued their own country and the world for a decade, at least.
Friends went off to war. Deployments went from 6 months to 14 months. Many came back never to be the same. Some never came back, including those who chose for themselves.
Generations were raised in War.
It’s now been 20 years and that day haunts us more than ever as we look at how we’ve handled our exit from Afghanistan, this year.
Our President has “evacuated” our troops from Afghanistan and abandoned 15,000+ Americans and Allies to the mercy of the Taliban. His administration has left behind military resources such as weapons, equipment, aircraft and vehicles worth Billions to the Taliban.
A nightmare ending to a 20 year long war and a complete disrespect to American values.
But we’ve got to remember what we were reminded of on this day in 2001. Americans will come together to do whatever it takes in the name of their brothers and sisters when evil strikes.
There are countless stories of New York Police Officers and Firemen who went into those buildings knowing well they may not come out and they never did. There were many civilians who did the same. We’ve all been told them and some of us knew them.
The heroes, sacrifices and bravery that were shown on 9/11 are just one example of many times Americans have put themselves into danger and sacrificed everything for what is right.
As we face the challenges of 2021 and beyond we have to remember our history, our values and principles. It is, after all, what makes us American.
Freedom, Liberty and Justice for All.