A 9/11 10 year Anniversary Reflection

In 1984, I went to NYC for the first time with some buddies from college.  It was during Spring Break.  I had traveled from a warm climate and I packed as if going to the beach.  When I got to NYC, it was freezing cold out, and all the buildings blocked out most of the sunlight.  I nearly froze to death.  I only had a couple pair of jeans, some short sleeve shirts, a sweatshirt and a jeans jacket.

One of the first things we did after we checked into our hotel was go up to the top of the Empire State building, where I took a couple of photos of the Twin Towers.  I could not have imagined then that terrorists would one day bring them both down.

I was teaching on 9/11.  We were on a short break between periods when  one of my students ran up to me and said, “teacher, the twin towers are on fire”.  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought maybe there had been some electrical fire or something.  She then said that they were going to fall down. I went to the computer lab, and watched as other students were reading about the attack.  I was absolutely stunned; in complete shock.  We let school out early.

I was worried about my daughters – one living in NYC, and the other, who was just 9.  Our eldest daughter also a teacher and teaching at the time in NYC contacted us shortly after the attack to say that she was fine.  She was in the South Bronx and far enough away from Ground Zero not to be in immediate danger but my wife and I were still worried about the possibility of another attack.  When I got back to the house, our 9 year old asked me what had happened and I think I said that there had been a bad accident.  She seemed concerned, but I didn’t want to tell her everything I knew.

I remember feeling shell shocked by it all.  And there were two other attacks that day, one slated for the Capital that was thwarted by brave passengers who tried to storm the cockpit which led  the terrorist pilot to abort the mission and down the plane in a field in PA, killing all aboard.  And then another plane crashed into the Pentagon, killing nearly 200 aboard. I still find it all hard to accept and difficult to process.

Immediately following the attacks, NYC and the country came together.  However, the subsequent war on terrorism quickly spiraled out of control and it cost thousands of American, coalition forces and innocent civilian lives over the course of a decade.  While America may be safer, or at least more prepared to prevent an attack, I don’t know that anyone feels any safer.  I don’t feel like the war on terrorism has made the world safer.  Extremist movements are as active now as they were pre 9/11.  Afghanistan is as unstable as ever.  Iraq’s security situation is fragile and may collapse once Americans forces are completely withdrawn, creating a opening for extremist groups and Iran to operate freely.

Today we honor the victims of 9/11 and recognize the many courageous people who either gave or risked their lives responding to the tragedy.  It is a day of mourning, of tribute and reflection.  I will never forget 9/11.