something about everything

The Worst Day

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was checking my email on my computer, when my phone rang:

“Do you have the TV on?  A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.”  It was my girlfriend, calling from Brooklyn.

I turned the TV on.  I saw the north tower on fire. It had to be a crazy pilot of a private plane. Then I saw another plane coming.  It wasn’t a replay.  I saw it crash into the south tower. Just fifteen miles from New York City, I ran up the stairs into the attic and I could see a black cloud in the distance to the northeast.

Aaron Brown of CNN, reporting from the roof of a midtown skyscraper, said it was an attack from an unknown source. And then he said the Sears Tower in Chicago may have been hit.  And then the Pentagon was hit.

My country was under attack.  Was it a massive attack that was just starting?  How long would it last?  I was afraid; but this was a different fear. Maybe like the fear of those in Pearl Harbor under attack.

Weren’t we protected from attack round the clock? Weren’t the fighter jets, as Joanie Mitchell once proclaimed, “riding shot gun in the sky?” Weren’t we secure in the notion of American invincibility?  What was happening? As Americans, our beliefs were shaken.

Eleven years have passed.  On 9/11, time stopped. Everyday problems disappeared. My former girlfriend’s voice is seared into my memory: “A plane crashed into the World Trade Center.” My wife and I have recounted our experiences of that terrible day many times.

We’ll always remember the people we were on that day and the people who died. But as timeless as 9/11 is, time has changed us. It was the “worst day” as depicted in a recent move.  But Pearl Harbor was also the worst day a long time ago.

9/11 has begun the long journey – as Pearl Harbor once did – from an event in our lives to a historical event.

And the “mercy” of history is that we remember the event and the emotions we felt; but we don’t feel the pain anymore.


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