Every year on this date I reflect on the events of 9/11 and how it affected not only me but everyone in America.
I remember the long and frantic evacuation of Terminal Tower and most other buildings in downtown Cleveland into a crowded and chaotic Public Square. Lots of questions were asked, but no answers were readily available. Little did we know then that just miles above us, the passengers of Flight 93 were revolting against their highjackers and making a brave stand against terrorists on a plane headed to the nation’s capital.
I remember forcing my co-workers to let me drive them to their homes and cars as I didn’t want them on public transportation since we didn’t know exactly what was happening. I still have the ticket stub from the parking garage that day that I never had to pay. It was the easiest I have ever left the downtown area; people yielding, allowing others ahead, waiting patiently for pedestrians to get to their own destinations and escape pods. I remember the fear of hearing powerful jet engines near the airport that we knew were no ordinary passenger planes, and wondering if we too, were under attack.
I remember desperately trying to reach my family via cell phone, and mercifully getting through to tell them I loved them amid the pandemonium and apparent doom.
I remember a lot of shock, fear, and crying.
I remember gas stations jacking up their prices in the uncertainty of events. Trying to find a newspaper the next day was near impossible. The rush on grocery stores forced some to close due to the onslaught of people and demand.
The thing I remember most is the change in the landscape of America that lasted a short time afterward. There was a camaraderie among Americans; a unifying of the country that I don’t think has ever happened before or since. A solidarity of intent and purpose to not be trodden upon by outsiders. We stood as One Nation for the only time I’ve seen in my lifetime. We not only comforted each other in our time of need, but we also supported each other in our effort to get through it. That feeling and time was fleeting but important for us as a country to pull through as strongly as we did.
I would later meet, work with, and become friends with someone who was in the World Trade Center on that horrible day. We basically shut down our office one afternoon to hear her story. She described the terrible events she personally experienced with courage and generally dry eyes, most likely out of necessity and our benefit than anything else. She answered our tentative probing questions with grace and poise; never flinching at our interrogation. Even as she spoke, I couldn’t imagine living the horror that she went through. To this day, she has my utmost respect for carrying on and embracing life as she has since then. I’m honored to call her a friend.
On this day of reflection, I hug my son a little tighter. I’m a little more polite to strangers though I should be polite all the time. I’m a little more stoic; a little more introspective; a little more thoughtful.
Many days have passed since with their own burdens and pains, but I will always remember 9/11.
I will never forget.