I am reflecting on my past few days visiting the memorials and museum dedicated to the lives lost and to the heroes who came to help during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Alan Jackson’s song asks, “where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?”
I will never forget my drive to school that day. I lived in a farm house out of town and commuted about 20 minutes to campus. As I got on the interstate, there was an alert on the local radio station that I only noticed because it interrupted the music. A plane had crashed into a building in New York City. I found it strange and horrible for the people involved, but did not really understand why that was such news in the Midwest.
I parked and walked to class, but knew something was not right, even before I went into a building. Campus was not its normal buzz. I would soon see why. Everyone was circled around whatever television could be found. I watched in horror as the second plane hit. Our professors did not know what to do, so they sent us all home. I called work – I tutored for the athletic department – and was told not to come in, but to go home.
As I walked back to my car, I just wanted to talk to my mom. As we tried to sort out what was happening and what she heard on the larger Kansas City news, that is when I was really scared. My mom said that my little brother, who was 8 at the time, often saw war torn countries on the news. He would ask if that would ever happen here? To us? I will never forget my mom saying, “I don’t know what I am going to tell him tonight.”
Visiting the memorials and the museum today, I was reminded of how so many, many people’s lives changed on that day. How many moms and dads, sisters and brothers, and grandpas and grandmas never came home from work that day? How many heroes were created as firefighters, EMTs, and police officers were just doing what they do – serving and protecting? And how many regular people did all they could to help others get to safety, only to lose their lives trying to get one more from the wreckage?
September 11th is day we will never forget. Our students today celebrate it as Patriots Day, honoring those who serve our country and communities. We must all do what we can to educate our youth in what happened on this day, how it changed our lives, and why we cannot forget the price that continues to be paid for our freedom.
And on my return trip home, I will thank each TSA worker for the job they do continuing to keep us safe. The next time I stand in a line waiting to go through security, I remember 9/11 and what we now know, the evil that is in the world, upclose and personally, and that knowledge changes everything.