An impossibility becomes possible; it has been a decade since 9/11/01, the day that shook our world. Ten years have passed since the planes pierced the Twin Towers in Manhattan. Ten years since the Pentagon was hit. Ten years since ordinary people wrestled with mad men flying a plane over a field in Pennsylvania.
No one who was alive that day will forget it. I will never forget it. On that September day, ten years ago, the sky over Chicago was as bright a blue as the sky seen in New York. Bright, cloudless, breathtakingly blue. A sky and a day full of the beauty of autumn.
But halfway across the continent, planes like bombs flew into the towers. Red and black flames licked the white buildings. The towers collapsed and the dust swirled like thick, black smoke, choking life out of the glorious day.
And the dark cloud blotted out the bright sky. The beautiful day darkened into early night. Hatred begat a violence that was beyond the imagination of all of us. A hatred so strong it enabled men to transform planes into powerful missiles pointed at the heart and soul of our nation. A hatred so overpowering that it put ordinary citizens in the sight lines of a war we didn't know we were waging.
On that day ten years ago, my son was not quite two years old. 9/11/01 fell on a Tuesday, which happened to be my day off of work. My son and I had a busy morning planned; a trip to the farmer's market followed by a big workout at the YMCA Tiny Tot tumbling class. It was an ordinary day filled with the ordinary moments of an ordinary life.
We were oblivious to the catastrophe swirling in New York until we were in the car heading to the farmer's market. I turned the radio on, and the announcer, in a voice full of shock, announced the collapse of the first tower. And the cessation of air traffic. It was about nine o'clock in Chicago.
I looked up at the bright blue sky and realized how empty it was that morning. No planes at all. I hadn't realized how the buzz of air traffic insinuated itself into the everyday sounds of life until the planes had been grounded.
The silence was more deafening than the air traffic.
Terrorists brought down the towers that day. And galvanized the country into action. We saw unbelievable courage that day. Fireman risking (and losing) their lives to save the people in the towers. Ordinary people helping others to safety. Supposedly the last words said by those flying in doomed planes and trapped in the doomed Towers was "I love you" in messages left on the voice mails of their beloveds.
And after the collapse of the Twin Towers, after the day darkened into night, we saw those signs posted - the heartbreaking signs
asking for any information about a missing loved one.
Hope dies last in a
situation like that.
We felt a strong sense of community born of the fact that we were all Americans on 9/11; we were all united in grief and confusion and yes, even pride in the courage we saw our fellow Americans display in New York and Washington and over that desolate field in Pennsylvania.
Almost 3000 people died that morning. We are still haunted by the devastating grief and loss from that day. The story that most haunts me a decade later is that of the little girl on her way to Disneyland. Juliana McCourt, four years old, was traveling with her mother to the Magic Kingdom. Instead, she flew with her plane into one of the Twin Towers and was obliterated in a gigantic fireball.
Tendrils of grief made their way across the nation. We mourned collectively. We mourned privately. We mourned the loss of our citizens, our friends, our family. We mourned the loss of our innocence.
Eventually, we moved on from that moment. Resumed our lives once again. Went on with the day-to-day bustle of life in modern America. Took our children to Wiggle Worm classes. Watched them get on the bus that took them to their first day of school. Felt the tremors of the collapse of Enron. Watched our nation declare war on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Came to the realization that the weapons of mass destruction that caused us to declare war on Iraq did not exist. Endured the collapse of our financial sector. Witnessed massive unemployment on a scale not seen since the Great Depression.
We realized that not all the threats to our nation existed outside of our borders. And that is a realization that is as haunting as the memory of 9/11.
And now summer transitions into autumn. And now it's here, the tenth anniversary of a most terrible day. And now the day that changed America confronts us once again, begging us to remember what we die for when we die for our country.