Today we remember 9-11, a day when we as Americans were in shock and fear. For us "Baby Boomers", it has been said that this was our "Pearl Harbor". Where were you when you heard? Where were you when your eyes were so wide open, so early in the morning, when what you witnessed on TV was not a movie, but for real? Where were you when you felt that need to gather your family close, call all those you love, attend a church service mid-week, display the stars and stripes on everything? Where are you with these remembrances today?
For myself, I was the opening cashier at my local big box home improvement store. At 6:00 a.m. the roll up door went up and I was prepared to greet my normal rush of everyday, early bird contractors and handymen gathering their supplies for a good days work. I remember the customer; I remember his words as he walked towards me...
"Something bad has just happened in New York...a plane flew into the World Trade Center...it looks like it meant to..."
I tried to call my son, Tim, at home, but he was sleeping soundly enough not to hear the phone ringing many times. My other son was at school which was almost across the street from where I was working and of course my husband was at work. Within a few minutes, an assistant manager was unboxing a TV we sold and setting it up on the end cap in front of my register. I suddenly became aware of this day at work in a surreal sense, for there were no customers with PVC irrigation pipe lined up at my register, no cement bags to count, no lumber carts with enough 2x4's to build a small house. What few customers were in the store were staring at the TV along with myself, a manager and several other store employees. We were listening intently, but what we saw took a few moments to really filter through. It was the second plane, aimed right for the second building, and then the violating impact. We now knew this was a deliberate action. At that moment amongst my co-workers and customers, there was no rank, no seniority, no employer-employee hierarchy, and no customer. We became one; one race, one class, one spiritual being, one family member, one citizen, one American. We were all hurting.
The store remained a ghost town all day and I probably went home early. My drive was short yet I noticed empty streets and emptier parking lots. I had finally gotten a hold of my son sometime during the day and had told him to switch on the TV..."yes Tim...Any channel." The vigil began, almost 24-7 in front of the TV or listening to talk radio. The tragedy continued to unfold: The Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania, the few rescues, the fires, the collapse, the first responders, the Port Authority, the police, the firemen, the mayor, the President, the heroes, the distraught family members, the rumors and the truths.. and the falling ashes...falling, falling like snow; those images I will never forget. There was also the anticipation of more rescued lives from the rubble, and then the disappointment when that was not becoming a reality.
Americans united, churches filled up, American flag stickers and pins were everywhere. Almost every house displayed "Old Glory". Today in my freshman World History class, the teacher asked the kids what they remembered about 9-11. They were seven years old in 2001.
"My mom was always watching the TV and I couldn't watch my cartoons."
"I don't remember."
"I can't remember it."
"They kept showing the plane fly into the building over and over and over forever."
It seems a new generation has already forgotten why our soldiers are in Afghanistan and Iraq today. I hope this really isn't true.
As I went to get some dinner tonight, and was waiting for my order, a little girl probably four or five skipped in to the restaurant holding her little American flag in her tight fist and around her neck was a red, white and blue ribbon and medal like an Olympian would wear. I do not know what the medal was for, but I hope it was for innocent patriotic spirit, for being a Miss America in the greatest country still in this world, and for her dreams that she will be able to accomplish as a citizen here in the USA, a country born out of the ashes of sacrifice many times over. Let us never forget.