We will never forget
Every once in a while, an event happens that is so memorable, many people have no trouble remembering exactly where they were or what they were doing at the time.
For myself, some of those events include the Iran hostage crisis, the death of John Lennon, the attempted assassination of President Reagan, the Challenger disaster and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
For some older folks, those events might include the end of the Vietnam War, the assassination of President Kennedy, the moon landing or the end of World War II.
This Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of another one of those major events.
On Sept. 11, 2001, four passenger jets were hijacked by teams of foreign terrorists. One was crashed into the Pentagon in Washington. Another crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after a group of passengers rallied to fight the terrorists.
Two of them were flown directly into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
Less than two hours later, both 110-story towers collapsed. Debris falling from the towers and the jets, along with the resulting fires, caused even more destruction leading to the partial or complete collapse of several other nearby buildings in the complex, including the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower, and caused significant damage to many other structures.
According to reports, the attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, injured more than 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage.
It has been called the single deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Like many people, I remember exactly where I was when it happened.
In 2001, I was living in Jacksonville, home of Little Rock Air Force Base.
On Sept. 10, I had put in a long day — and night — at the office. When I got home in the wee hours of Sept. 11, I fell asleep on the couch.
I woke up for some reason a few hours later and flipped on the TV. A few clicks later, I landed on CNN, which was showing footage of the North Tower, which had been struck by American Airlines Flight 11 just moments before — almost the exact time I’d woken up.
I remember watching, horrified, as the live footage showed United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower shortly thereafter.
I stayed glued to the screen as the events continued to unfold.
American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
By this time, back in New York, the towers were both on fire and collapsed soon after, killing thousands of civilians trapped inside, along with 343 firefighters and 72 police officers who were trying to rescue them.
The sheer magnitude of the attack left me speechless. I tried to call people and talk about it, but the words wouldn’t come. The best I could manage was, “Did you see what happened?”
Years later, in 2011, the nation honored the 10th anniversary of the attack with ceremonies, prayers and tears at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, Pa., where the planes crashed.
“These past 10 years underscore the bonds between all Americans. We have not succumbed to suspicion and mistrust,” President Obama said in a speech.
“It will be said of us that we kept that faith; that we took a painful blow, and emerged stronger.”
Now, 20 years later, the memory isn’t as fresh, although it still endures.
We should continue to remember the lives lost that day — including the first responders who charged in attempting to save others, along with the thousands more who signed up to fight and die on foreign soil in the wake of the attack.
As individuals, we were shocked and horrified at the attack. As a nation, it strengthened us as we pulled together, recovered and attempted to move on. We should remember that feeling, especially as we try to navigate the recent divisions that have spread across our nation.
Despite our differences, we are all Americans, all worthy of respect and all striving to reach the same goals of peace, safety and security for our families. We just want to live. We want to be free. We want our children to have more opportunities than we did. At a fundamental level, we are all the same.
The families and friends of those who perished in the attack have had a harder road than the rest of us, but we can hope they have found some peace in the years since the attack.
The pain may never fade, but hopefully, they can take some comfort from this: We will never forget.