There are moments in life that stay with us forever. Happy moments, such as being baptized, or the birth of our children, or our marriage. Days filled with laughter and happiness, that we carry in our hearts always. Sad moments, such as losing a loved one, betrayal by a friend, or devastated dreams; broken hearts and tear-stained cheeks. Then there are moments that change us forever. There are those events that we know will never allow life to return to its former state; those moments that shake us to our core and cause us to question. Why? How? Questions only to be followed by sorrowful "if onlys" and "what ifs," that would never be fully answered.
September 11, 2001 was such a day, and the horrific events of the day were such events. All of us, who were old enough to fully experience that day, know the gut-wrenching pain felt on that day. It was a day when we saw the magnitude of horror that man could do to a fellow man, and on that day, we saw hope in the sacrifice that men and women did for their fellow brothers and sisters.
By the time I reached the office, there was a group of co-workers huddled around a computer screen. I remember Jeff telling me that a second plane had hit the second tower of the World Trade Center, and there were more planes believed to have been highjacked. The nation was on emergency alert. This was a terror attack on American soil.
Unsure of how the events of the day would continue to unfold, Jeff sent me back north, to get the children. He said he would feel more comfortable if we were all at home together to ride out the horror of the day. So, I packed up my work things, and got back in the car, just as news of the crash at the Pentagon aired.
As I drove back toward Nashville, I felt numb. News of the towers falling seemed surreal. How could these huge towers just fall? How many people were trapped? People were actually jumping? How could this be?
I remember arriving at the boys' school, along with many other parents. I collected two very surprised little boys -- Colton in 2nd grade, and Conner in pre-school. I shielded them from the news as much as possible, saying we just decided to have a day at home together. We picked up Katie, and got home by late morning. As we ate lunch, I purposely kept the television off. I somehow wanted the innocence that my children felt to last, although I knew it could not.
By the time that Jeff got home, we put a movie on for the children in the playroom, and we went to the other end of the house to get an update. The news was unbelievable. We had friends in New York with MetLife, and no one could get any information on their statuses.
Jeff and I were glued to the television, when we realized that we were not alone. Six little eyes were behind us. The innocence of their childhood was changed. We carefully and generally explained that something bad had happened, and that many people were hurt. I remember Colton's little face, asking me such a poignant question -- "Mommy, why would anyone want to hurt other people?" It was almost too much to take, and I remember just hugging him and crying. Little Conner was too young to understand, but he clung to me tightly, as well. Even Katie understood that something was very wrong. It was as if Jeff and I just wanted to cocoon our little family away from the rest of the world.
By evening, prayer vigils had been set across the country, and the five of us headed to Madison Church of Christ. I remember so clearly the faces, blank with shock; the tears; the sobs; the holding hands; and the prayers.
The days following were filled with hope, as survivors were found in the rubble. The days were filled with happiness of finally hearing from so many of our friends in New York. The days were filled with immense sadness of the reality of the loss of that day. The days were filled with fear of what would come, as a result.
Yes, 9/11/01, was a day that we were forever changed, as a nation and as individuals. It was a day that brought us together as a nation and as individuals. It didn't matter the color of one's skin, or the lifestyle one lived, or the size of one's bank account. We were all united, and we were all Americans.
I remember thinking that unity, love and compassion were probably some of the very few positives that had come from the tragedy.
So now, fifteen years later, we remember. For some, it is a daily struggle to continue living without loved ones that perished that day. For some, today is a hateful reminder of such massive loss. For many, it should be a day to remember that unity that the tragedy inspired. But we don't always want to remember. Maybe we should.