It’s been 21 years, and yet I vividly remember that morning. That day. The days that followed.
It was a beautiful fall morning in Boise. I was buttoning up a black and cream plaid shirt dress and getting ready for work when I turned on the Today show. It was just like every other morning.
It was surprising to see the flames and smoke pouring from the windows at the World Trade Center. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were announcing reports that a small plane may have hit the Tower. Wow. How could that happen?
And then I watched real-time as the second plane flew into the second Tower. It was incomprehensible.
Mike was in the shower, and I ran into the bathroom to tell him the news, but I couldn’t find the words to explain to him what I’d just watched. While I struggled to make sense of it, I found it even more difficult to explain it to Mike. Plane. World Trade Center. Crash. Smoke. Flames. Get out of the shower.
In my naiveté, my first thought was there was something wrong with air traffic control that day. But that didn’t make any sense. The skies were picture-perfect, a Chamber-of-Commerce kind of morning in New York City.
Together, we watched from the couch as Jim Miklaszewski reported from the Pentagon.
Then, we watched as President Bush was told of the attacks while in an elementary school classroom.
At some point, we both went to work. From the cafeteria at Albertson’s corporate offices, I watched the first Tower fall. I was an architecture and urban planning major in college. It never occurred to me that the steel would heat to such a temperature that it would give way.
That night, we followed every minute of the news. We spent a lot of time watching the news from the couch over the next several days.
I remember crying along with news reporters and the grieving loved ones left behind they were interviewing. Hoping for answers. Waiting for news that survivors had been found in the devastation. Learning special details about the lives of the heroic first-responders running headlong into the Towers, and the passengers of Flight #93. Longing for the normalcy that was lost on the morning of 9/11.
There was a somberness that permeated everything, from going to work to grocery shopping to attending church. Everything about our safe world felt different. You couldn’t buy an American flag anywhere because they were sold out.
As much as I remember the gut-wrenching feelings of loss and helplessness from 9/11, I also remember the collective resolve. The eagerness to come together as a country. The more neighborly way that we greeted and interacted with everyone we came in contact with.
We profess to “Never Forget.” Every year for the past 21 years, we mark the anniversary with moments of silence, and special patches on game-day jerseys, and memorial services across the country.
But it seems to me that vowing to “Never Forget” should also include remembering and honoring that collective resolve to come together as Americans. To love one another, even in disagreement. To celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in this country, even when politics threaten to divide us.
We have it so much better than so many others in the world. And yet, we are more divided today by politics and rhetoric and vaccinations and human rights than I can ever remember.
Today, it’s been 21 years since the attacks on America. As we mark this milestone, may we “Never Forget” those lives that were lost, and also the unity we felt following that fateful day that changed our lives forever. I’d like to think the best way to honor all that was lost on September 11, 2001 is a recommitment to coming together to protect America and its precious democracy.