I had the television on, mostly for background noise, while I was walking through the house gathering laundry. As I passed by the television, I could see a building on fire. The reporter said something about a small plane crashing into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Big letters emblazoned along the bottom of the screen shouted "WORLD TRADE CENTER DISASTER." My friend and I were still on the phone and I told her to turn on the television. She asked me what channel. I told her it didn't matter.
About a minute after she turned on the television, we saw the second plane. Now there was no doubt. It was all I could do to stay standing long enough to find a place to sit. It seemed like an eternity before either of us spoke. The world was moving in slow motion.
Now there was talk that it was a terrorist attack. Well that can't be. This is America! We don't have terrorists. Right? I flipped through the channels, just trying to make sense of it all.
The reporters confirm that Flight 11 (the first plane) and Flight 175 (the second plane) were indeed hijacked. While the focus was on the Pentagon, the South Tower collapsed.
About 30 minutes later I stared in disbelief at the television screen as I watched the North Tower plummet to the ground. I was reminded of the way a volcano erupts and the cloud of ash and debris envelops everything in its path.
And now they are saying that a fourth hijacked plane (Flight 93) crashed in a rural part of Pennsylvania, likely intended for the White House or the Capitol.
The rest of the day, all I could do was sit and stare at the television. It was probably two or three days later before it all really started to sink in.
I didn't know anyone in the Twin Towers or the Pentagon, or on any of the hijacked flights. Still, somehow I felt personally connected to the day's events. In less than 2 hours, my entire view of the world changed. Four planes were hijacked, iconic American landmarks destroyed, and thousands of people are dead. I no longer felt safe. How could something like this happen in the greatest country in the world?
I'm not old enough to remember what it was like to hear about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, or Bobby Kennedy, or Martin Luther King, Jr. I don't remember man's first steps on the moon. World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were all before my time. Growing up, I always felt like I was born too late to witness real history.
I could have lived a dozen more lifetimes without witnessing the history that was made on September 11, 2001. But I was also a witness to the resolve, courage, and heroism displayed that day by people of all shapes, sizes, nationalities, races, and religions in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia - on the ground and in the air. And for that, I am proud to be an American.
Do we share any ancestors?
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com