Another year has passed, and once again I’m taking the time to reflect on September 11th, 2001.
I was living in a small basement apartment with my friend Pam. After showering I sat down in our tiny living room with my breakfast. I had just moved back to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and began my third year of University. As I was flicking through the channels I caught sight of a tall building on fire, smoke billowing towards the sky. Thinking it was a movie, I turned the volume up to see if I had watched it before. The image switched back to a newscaster, who said a plane had hit one of the Trade Center towers. At first I was under the impression it was an accident, and felt sad for the poor man or woman who somehow crashed their little plane. Without warning, a second plane came out of nowhere and hit the other tower. My jaw dropped. I called out, “PAM! Two planes just hit the world trade center!” She came to the living room and we both stared at the screen as the shocked newscaster was fumbling for words.
I walked to class in a daze. The impact of what had happened hadn’t set in just yet. I must have heard at least 20 planes fly over head during the short walk to class. That was when the real panic started to set in. Was this the beginning of World War 3? My naive feeling of safety were abruptly shattered.
Some people question why September 11th has remained “a big deal” when plenty of other heartbreaking, world-changing events have occurred before and after. The sadness around this day is not just about the people who were murdered. That day is the day I realized, as I’m sure many others have, that we are not as safe as we thought, and world war 3 was a possibility. That was the day I learned the word “terrorist”.
Moments of intense anguish may be stressful and cause intense sorrow, but they also present the opportunity to rebuild, experience growth, and appreciate life.
“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.”
—President Obama in a 2011 radio address
“My father was the best person I have ever known and though he was taken from me on that day, nothing and no one will ever be able to take way the eight years and two days of my life that I shared with him. After my father died, and after I lost so much, I promised myself that I would never lose who I am as a person – the person that my father brought me up to be. … If you owe someone an apology, tell them you are sorry today. If someone asks for your forgiveness, forgive them. Start being the person you always wanted to be today and don’t waste your time worrying about tomorrow.”
– Mary Kate McErlean, whose father was killed on 9/11 when she was 8 years old.