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Each generation shares a "Where were you then" moment, an event so awful that its memory sears itself into the collective psyche and the circumstances surrounding one's first awareness of it can be instantly recalled. For my grandparents, that event was Pearl Harbor, and for my parents it was the assassination of John Kennedy. My generation had two within four years of each other -- the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan and the accidental destruction of the space shuttle Challenger.
And yet none of these really quite compares to the impact that 9/11 had on Americans. Perhaps only Pearl Harbor is analogous, but still not quite the same. For the first time in almost 200 years, Americans had suffered massive casualties in an attack on our homeland, something we thought we could defend with our massive Navy and Air Force.
But it wasn't just the attack or the deaths; it was the use of our own commercial aircraft to destroy civilian targets. It was the thought of the people on those planes, who could have been any one of us, trapped as the final witnesses on makeshift guided missiles, unable except in the last instance to understand what their fate would be. It was the people trapped above the flames on the doomed World Trade Center, either jumping or being thrust out by the pressure and the heat of the flames, hoping against hope that their deaths would be somehow less horrific with the 100-story fall than in the firestorm from which they escaped.
Where was I then?
I had arrived at work early as I did at the time, to catch up on my e-mail and voicemail messages and to read a bit of the news before my day started in earnest. Just before 8 am CT, one of my co-workers mentioned to me that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center, and I remembered a story that my father had told me about small aircraft occasionally hitting the Empire State Building when he was a young boy in New York. It wasn't until the second plane hit the second tower that we all realized we were under attack.
Work came to a halt, at least as much as possible in our line of work. I rushed to check on our clients in the WTC and found out that none of them had arrived at work before the attack, and then spent most of the day watching the TV, seeing the images of people fleeing while New York firefighters and police officers ran into the maelstrom. I remember the disbelief we all felt when the towers collapsed, first one and shortly afterwards the other.
I remember the feeling of utter helplessness, momentarily alleviated when we heard about the heroes of Flight 93 who turned their deaths into the only triumph we had that black day. Rumors of the people who died on the planes; was it really possible that Barbara Olson, who we'd all seen on television, died at the Pentagon? What about the producers of Frasier? How many died in the WTC collapse? Ten thousand? Twenty?
In the days to come, more and more of the story fell into place, the helplessness morphed into anger and determination. Determination that we should never forget, and never surrender to the terror. But not that day. All I felt that day was shock, fear, and horror. The terrorists won that day. And I want to make sure that 9/11 remains the only day they can claim.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Never Forget from InTheBullpen.com
With the third anniversary of 9/11, I find it a fitting tribute to include where I was while the attacks were happening in an effort to find out where others were. This was a time that will define a generation and will not be forgotten. [Read More]
Tracked on September 11, 2004 2:01 PM
» What I Remember from RIGHT ON RED >>
I lived in Nashville at the time, and my apartment was across the street from the office building in which I worked. I sat down in my cubicle, logged onto my PC, and put on my headphones, as I did every morning. Outlook notified me of a new email. ... [Read More]
Tracked on September 11, 2004 2:54 PM
» The future depends on us from INCITE
On this day, in ancient and largely forgotten history, a large and powerful nation--still young by the standards of its Western European antecedents--was delivered a devastating surprise attack from an enemy which the world had largely ignored before... [Read More]
Tracked on September 11, 2004 4:36 PM
Tracked on September 11, 2004 8:03 PM
» September 11th from Captain's Comments
I watched as the Challenger exploded live on CNN, and wept as the Colombia disintegrated as it came back to earth. The Berlin Wall coming down was a joy to see. And I remember where I was as I learned about the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. [Read More]
Tracked on September 11, 2004 9:44 PM
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