Like other days of horrific events that one will remember for a lifetime, being drawn back into where I was, what I was doing, whom I was with on September 11, 2001 is burned into my memory.
With no inkling that that momentous day would play out in multiple locations from Boston to New York City to Newark, N.J.; to Washington, D.C. and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, I opened our antique shop in the morning. A neighboring shop owner told me about the first airplane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers. I rushed into the shop and turned on our TV, just in time to see the second plane go smashing through the other tower, leaving an airplane-shaped silhouette where it had entered. I have to admit, the full ramifications of those events didn’t immediately hit me.
My horror lay in what would happen to the men and women who worked those airplanes. I have lived in their shoes. It was beyond my capability to fathom the incredible fear they must have felt, knowing they only had seconds to live. Then I thought about the passengers and their stunned reactions. Only then did I process that there were thousands and thousands of people working in those two buildings, many of whom would also perish.
Two planes had been hijacked by terrorists, suspected of being members of al-Qaeda, from Boston that were due to fly cross-country. They were, in airplane lingo, ‘heavy and wet,’ or fully loaded with passengers and fuel. An American Airlines 757 left Boston to go to Los Angeles (LAX). A few moments later, a United Airlines flight took off from the same airport, also en route to LAX. An American plane took off from Dulles International Airport in Virginia to fly to LAX as well. A United flight took off from Newark, destination San Francisco. None would make their destinations. Instead, the first two hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center towers, bringing them down. A third crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth, now being flown by the hijackers, went down in a field in Pennsylvania after crew members and passengers tried to regain control of the plane. Fearing they might be successful, the hijackers intentionally flew it into the ground. Its terrible final crashing point was likely the White House.
Similar to the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas; similar to the day that suspected Kennedy killer Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby on national television, the 9-11 event is emblazoned on memories. Each year on that date, we pause to reflect, to mourn for those involved, to pray for our country. We’ve been isolated for many years from the type of horrific tragedies that other countries have faced for centuries.