Well, I'm sorry if you are tired of this after 8 years.
There is another important reason to remember, beyond that of honoring the dead.
I was at work when someone came up to my desk to announce that he’d heard on the radio that an aircraft had hit the World Trade Center.
What a bizarre occurrence, I thought. How could such an accident happen? Maybe some controller or pilot asleep at the wheel. Who knew?
Then came the second report… and a horrible realization. We were under attack!
No one worked after that. We all huddled around a small TV that was in the break room. No one said a word. We just watched.
Then, suddenly, it was time to go home. I can’t recall my thoughts during the drive home. When I got there, I flipped on the TV for continuing coverage of the event.
Then it struck me. I was watching all this pass by without emotion. It was like I was watching a documentary of some past event that had little or no effect on my life.
I began to berate myself for that. Is this all you have? Is there nothing inside of you but an analytical view of this horrible event? I didn’t even feel numb, exactly. More like disassociated.
So, as I’m watching, reporters on the scene began interviewing witnesses. One guy approached a woman who had seen the whole thing from a distance. I remember her words exactly. I will never forget them;
“… as I was watching, I saw debris falling from the buildings. I remember having concern for those on the streets below. But as I continued to watch, I realized that it was not debris. It was people jumping.”
At that moment she lost it and began to cry. The reporter put down his mike and hugged her and began to weep as well.
At that moment, it struck me. The enormity of it all. The horror… everything. And at that moment, I cried with them.
Because that is the way things played out, there will always be a second image of that day indelibly burned in to my mind.
Time magazine’s following issue showcased a cover photo of a man and a woman holding hands after just having jumped from one of the buildings.
What a picture. What a moment seeing it for the first time. Especially considering how the whole event finally struck me when the reporter hugged the woman.
There is perhaps no more powerful image I have ever seen in my life. I see it now as if it were yesterday. I don’t own a copy of the magazine or the image. I don’t want it. I don’t need it. I see it anyway, for all time.
The final thing that I will never forget is the men and women of Congress gathering on the stairs to sing God Bless America.
Later on, I realized that those three images forever with me all shared a common theme. The reporter hugging the woman. The man and woman holding hands as they jumped. The men and women of Congress singing in unison.
On that day, and the few days that followed, we were not young, middle-aged or old. We were not African, white European, Latino or Asian. We were not Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or apathetic to politics. We were not Christian, Jew or Muslim.
We were just people, man. Just people. Just Americans. Doing what we do in times of trouble.
That’s why it is important to remember that day, Not only to honor the dead, but as a very important reminder. A reminder of who we are.
Americans. Every one of us.