Everybody and their brother/sister will be blogging about September 11, but I want to share my perspective.
On December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the previous day’s bombing of Pearl Harbor as “a date which will live in infamy.” The news of the Japanese assault on U.S. military ships and airfields reached the nation at 2:25 p.m. on December 7, while the attack was still underway. More than 2,000 American servicemen were killed, along with 60 civilians.
Until September 11, 2001, Americans knew their military could be in danger elsewhere. But the thought of an enemy targeting civilians on our own soil was beyond comprehension. Such a thing could not happen. Until it did.
I was still asleep when my son called to say, “Bad things are happening. Turn on the TV.” And there it was – the unthinkable happening before my eyes. It wasn’t 1941; I didn’t have to wait to hear the news on the radio. It was right there in front of me.
It took awhile for my brain to process what it was seeing. Is this a movie with special effects? Are those dummies falling from the windows? Sadly, no. It is reported that 200 people jumped from the burning buildings, some of them landing on people on the ground and killing them as well.
I watched another impossibility as two of the most famous buildings in the world collapsed into ashes and rubble, destroying nearly everyone inside who had not been killed by the initial impact of the planes piloted by al-Qaeda terrorists.
One of the hardest, yet most inspiring, things to watch was the search for survivors. Rescue personnel from all over the country rushed to the scene. People donated blood and clothing, food and water, anything they could think of that might help. But help wasn’t necessary. There were only 11 people who were pulled from the debris alive.
Then came news of another attack, this time on the Pentagon. The Pentagon! Yet another impossibility. And then, word of the heart-breaking crash of Flight 63 that plummeted into the ground even as its passengers rose against their captors.
As we watched, we wondered. Are we at war? Will there be more attacks? Is my family safe? Am I safe? What’s going to happen next? Eventually we breathed easier, but we are not nearly as complacent today as we were before al-Qaeda robbed us of our innocence. We remain vigilant, knowing that the destroyers of the World Trade Center would destroy us all if they could.
Some people in some countries gloated over our misfortune. They had known war on their home ground for centuries and thought it was about time that the mighty United States got a taste. Other people in other countries were horrified that this could happen and sent what comfort they could.
September 11 remains a kaleidoscope of unimaginable horror and panic, unparalleled bravery and sacrifice, and graphic images that will be etched on our country’s psyche forever.
“Infamy” doesn’t begin to cover it.