I’ve done something pretty much every September 11 I’ve had a website, but I think the best piece was the one I wrote three years ago to mark the occasion. I pick it up in the second paragraph.
That day was a glorious Tuesday weatherwise, a perfect late summer day in northwest Ohio. At the time I was working for my last firm, Hobbs and Black Architects, and as was normal on most days I had my headphones on listening to a CD when the phone rang. For whatever reason, I picked it up and it was my co-worker Larry who informed me that he would be in shortly and did I know that a plane had hit the World Trade Center? I told him no, and I’d see him shortly.
What I assumed, not knowing the whole story at the time, was that what struck the WTC was a small Cessna-type plane. I had no idea that it was the first jetliner to hit or that by the time Larry made it in that a second plane was making contact. But when Larry turned on his radio straight away to continue monitoring the events, we all knew something bad was happening. This was probably about 9:15 or so.
Obviously we were all glued to the radio accounts of the news, but we did have work to get done. Some of my cohorts were wrapping up presentation drawings for a new synagogue that was to be presented in a meeting to the congregation that evening. But later that morning we got a call from the design architect who decided maybe meeting that night would not be a good idea. Not a whole lot was done that day as obviously we were all waiting for another shoe to drop, particularly when we heard that the Pentagon was hit and there was another plane that had dropped out of contact over Ohio (this would be Flight 93.)
It seemed like an eternity until 5:30 when my workday was done. I figured I’d better stop for gas on the way back home and found that the gas priced at $1.10 or so when I went to work was now $1.80. Still, there were lines to get in the station. And all that was normal when the day began was now different. There were no ballgames on, nor any of the regular TV shows. All we had on was the wall-to-wall coverage of the mounting death toll and the question about why we were targeted.
In the days that followed, the questioning turned to mourning and then to solidarity. I remember all the members of Congress singing patriotically on the Capitol steps. For a few days afterward we weren’t Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, we were just Americans.
But when I think about that day, I think more about the effect it had on my daughter. We all live some of our lives through our children and even though I wasn’t around when she was born Dani is still my daughter. So perhaps the thing that upsets me the most is that this occurred during her senior year of high school. It’s supposed to be one of the most fun years of a child’s life, but hers forever has the black mark of being associated with 9/11.
There’s one incident that typifies that melancholy feeling I get when 9/11 comes up. On the Saturday afterward, Dani’s high school hosted a band concert with several other bands in the region. They all played 3 or 4 songs, essentially a typical halftime show.
As was traditional, her school’s band closed the show. Instead of a regular show though, as I recall they marched onto the field and took their formation. Then, to the sound of a single drum keeping time they slowly and somberly marched off one by one. It’s a bitter memory that I have, thinking about the joy that a high school marching band generally brings tempered by events beyond their control.
9/11 was an event that continues to define a generation. It’s Dani’s age group that volunteered to fight against the enemy who took the fight to us on that brilliant day turned dark, and it’s her age group that takes most of the casualties in that fight on both sides.
But for those of us who were just doing our jobs on a regular workday not unlike the thousand before, living through that one changed us too. We still take time to remember and mourn those for whom it was their last workday; the ones who never knew what hit them, those on the planes who never made it to their destinations, some who died trying to save their cohorts in the Twin Towers, and still others unfortunate enough to be at the top of the towers who faced a horrible choice of how to end their life.
Because of some agenda, political or otherwise, we rarely see the pictures anymore. But placing the events that happened on a Tuesday not unlike today six years ago out of sight cannot and should not place them out of mind. We owe it to my daughter’s generation not to forget.
You know, with all the hullabaloo over the mosque nearby Ground Zero, the events of 9/11 remain on our mind and the wounds unhealed. Personally I’d prefer they built it someplace else in New York (my understanding is there’s another mosque just blocks away) but what will be will be I suppose. Just don’t be surprised if someone tosses a firebomb in the place sometime down the road.
But as the years are removed and other events occur in our lives, my fear is that we return to the so-called 9/10 mindset. Just because we have ceased operations in Iraq and are getting ready to pull out of Afghanistan next year doesn’t mean the threat from Islamic terrorism has ceased – in fact, they may see this manuever as a sign of weakness. Perhaps the next anniversary and the prospect of the groundbreaking for a new mosque will bring us a new vigilance.