The phone pulled me from my sleep at 6:15 am. Not totally with it, I answered the phone and heard the voice of my friend:
“Get up! Turn on the tv! A plane hit the World Trade Center!”
As we watched the smoke rise to the sky, we were under the assumption that this was a tragic accident – that a plane had accidentally hit the building. But as the second plane hit the second tower, it was obvious this was something much bigger than that.
At the time, I lived in the Bay Area of California; my friend was all the way in Colorado, where the rest of my family lived (except my brother who lived in LA). Because all of the planes hijacked in the attack were headed towards the West Coast, there was an immediate fear that LA and San Francisco could be next.
Immediately, the conversation turned to getting out of California as soon as possible. And as overwhelmed as I felt (the whole world felt) at that moment, I knew it wasn’t going to be that simple. I quickly showered and headed to my home-away-from-home – the athletic complex of the college I was attending. At the time, I was interning in the Sports Communication Department, so that’s exactly where I headed. I craved physical connection with those that I considered family.
All day, we sat glued to the television as we watched the towers fall, as newscasters speculated at what was happening, and as the President addressed the nation. I felt numb and confused and scared. Nobody knew what this meant for the United States, or the world. We assumed that these attacks would become more and more common.
That evening, I got in my car and got onto the freeway. I felt the need for some freedom, so I rolled the windows down, turned up the radio, and let the tears fall down my face. As I approached the first bridge over the freeway, I saw the most incredible and inspirational sight. The road above was jammed with people, all waving the American flag. A sign was being held by someone that read, “United We Stand.”
Yes, it was an awful day in our history, but at that moment, I was filled with hope. I had a renewed sense of pride in my country and its citizens. I was scared, but I was not petrified. I knew we would get through this.
While there are people out there that were affected on a much more personal level – there were nearly 3000 people that were killed that day, that had kissed their loved ones for the last time. I can only imagine the hole in their hearts that is still present today and will be for the rest of their lives.
Sometimes it feels like the world was split into ‘Before’ and ‘After’ that day; it’s a day that will live with me forever. It’s important for us to reflect on that day, eighteen years ago, that changed the world. Not only do we owe it to the people that died that day, we owe it to our country to always remember that day – to never forget.