I was eighteen on that date. I had only just gotten my driver licence a few months previous (late bloomer in that aspect). My best friends had called me the night before, crying because his girlfriend had broken up with him. He needed me, his friend. My mother begged me not to go, cried, said something bad was going to happen. She could FEEL it. It was already late at night, there was a storm, streets and parts of the highway were flooded. But this was my best friend. I HAD to go. I HAD to help him and talk him off whatever ledge he was on. So I went, promising my mom I will call her as soon as I got there. I even had to stop under an overpass on the highway because it was raining so hard, but eventually I got there safely where I stayed the night with a group of friends.
The next morning, getting up earlier than any fun-loving eighteen-year-old should, I took my friend to a waffle house, wanting to treat him to some yummy hangover food and never ending cups of coffee. That's when the first plane hit the twin towers. Phones were going off all around us, the waitresses found a small portable TV and EVERYONE gathered around it. All business stopped, food grew cold, no one cared about anything except what was happening in New York City. Then, we watched in shock and horror as yet ANOTHER plane crashed into the World Trade Center. This was unreal! It was no accident. Now we knew we were being attacked. Innocent lives destroyed for NOTHING but hate. Terror.
My view on the world was forever changed that day in the waffle house. I can't even pass it without REMEMBERING. And my mother was right. Something bad did happen. Just not what she expected.
In the aftermath, we learned about the Pentagon and the crash in Pennsylvania. I had family in the D.C. are; we couldn't get a hold of them. One was a firefighter. We wanted to know if they were being called to the Pentagon, fearful of another attack in D.C. The phones were down. Fear gripped us at not knowing where they were, if they were okay.
I went to New York City for the first time that year. It was a trip of almost twenty of us, carpooling to spend New Years in Times Square. Scary concept considering all we thought about was that would be the perfect time to attack us again, but it was like we HAD to be there. We had to be brave, strong, show that we aren't afraid. Unite.
Three months after the attack and windows were still blown out for blocks surrounding the resting place of the World Trade Center. Dust covered EVERYTHING in the area, all that remained of the buildings and victims of the attack. The beautiful, once clean area of that part of New York was littered with rubble and trash that blew in the breeze between buildings. I watched as men cleared the site of the remains. I couldn't not watch. I had to REMEMBER.
A month later, I was in bootcamp. And years later, on another memorial day of 9/11, I heard a story from my Commanding Officer that I will NEVER FORGET. He cried as he told thousands of us what he had been doing that devastating day. He was WORKING in the Pentagon at the time. His office was hit, destroyed, but thankfully, he had been on the other side of the building in a meeting. However, his mother didn't know that. She died, having a heart attack because those damn phones were down and she couldn't get in touch with him. She died thinking she had lost her son. This makes me cry all over again because so many people who weren't even in the line of fire were affected by the events of this day.
I cry more thinking that our children, who hadn't gone through the turmoil of that day, will never understand. Just thinking about that makes me sad because now I understand all those veterans and those who aren't that lived through prior wars. I didn't understand the Vets who cried at the memorials in Washington D.C. Yes, I was sad that they were sad, but I didn't have the imagery they were reliving when they broke down crying with their comrades. It's like watching Pearl Harbor. You cry through that movie because you see a little piece of the terror the men and women lived through, but you'll never fully grasp what they are feeling. You don't have their point of view, remembered smells, hearing, sights.
So, for those born after, I will always REMEMBER.