I remember at some point in my Elementary school career being given the assignment to talk to someone in my family about some major historical event in our countries history. Some of the questions included "Do you remember where you were when 'blank' happened?" and "How did you feel?"
I remember my grandmother, even years later, getting a little misty when talking about the assassination of President Kennedy. She had just given birth to her son, my uncle, that morning, and spoke of what a strange mix of emotions it was. Here she was, happy to have a beautiful, healthy baby boy in her arms, but in mourning with the rest of the country.
My mother spoke of the Challengers tragic flight on January 28, 1986. Watching with a trill of joy as a spacecraft took off, only to watch in horror as it fell apart just over a minute into the sky.
I spoke to my great-grandmother, who remembered Pearl Harbor and the horror that the country felt at the time. The violation of being attacked on our own soil because of a war we weren't even a part of.
I remember thinking at the time that I got it. That I understood the turmoil and confusion events like that must bring. I thought that I understood from my interviews the pain and sadness and shock of these dark days in American history. And I remember the day I found out that I was wrong. That I had no clue just from being told what it was like to feel horror and sadness and disbelief...Because I remember where I was at 8:46am on September 11, 2001.
One day, all of us with children in school will probably have them ask us if we remember. Where were we when we heard? How did we feel? From our stories they will think they get it. They will think they understand what it must have been like. I hope they never truly do. I hope that our country never has to see a day that dark again so that our children can be spared the horror and pain and fear that spread like wildfire that day.
It was a beautiful Tuesday. The perfect late Summer day you see in movies and hear written about. It should have been my second day of college, but I'd had surgery the afternoon before and would be starting school a semester late. As a result, I was curled up in bed watching early morning television when the Breaking News flashed across the screen...It appeared that a plane, no one knew what kind, had flown into the side of one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I was in shock along with everyone else. How in the world did something like that happen? They were reporting several different eye witness accounts, varying from it being a small prop tourist plane to a slightly larger passenger plane...and one or two witnesses swore that it had been a large commercial plane, though even the reporters scoffed at that. How could a commercial plane fly into the WTC? Most of the country seemed to be assuming it was a very tragic accident...
I watched, and saw what looked to be another plane enter the camera shot. I had just enough time to think "I wonder why they're flying so low?" when an explosion shook the second tower, and I felt my stomach drop as I, along with the rest of the country, realized that this was no accident. It couldn't possibly be an accident anymore.
I remember the day and those following it unfolding like some kind of sick horror movie or bad dream. My parents picked my brother and sister up from their schools and weren't the only parents doing so. Planes were grounded all over the country. The towers fell, adding more shock to an already unbelievable day. The pentagon was hit, and a plane had crash landed somewhere in Pennsylvania. People searched for their loved ones, searched for answers, the death toll rose and rose, stories started leaking about last phone calls, about a flight who fought, about who did this to us and why...Some of the darkest days in American history, if not the darkest the "experts" were saying...
And yet I saw America rally. Rally as we might never see them rally again. People were helping people. For once it didn't matter if people were rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, black or white or polka-dot...As a country we became one. It didn't last. How could it? The years have passed and memories have faded...but for a little while I was PROUD of how our great land behaved in the face of one of the darkest days in our history.
I hope our children never know. I hope they never know what it's like to see what we all saw that day. But for those of us who did live through it, I hope we remember. I hope we remember every day what it was like. Because if you don't remember it is so easy to get complacent, and with that we leave ourselves open to a repeat of that horrible day.
God bless those we lost and those who lost. God bless those who have stood up to serve our country and protect her from more days like that one. God bless America.