I will never forget that day. Just two days prior, on Sunday, September 9th, we celebrated my Dad’s, my Aunt’s and my Son’s birthdays. It was a special one for my Dad, his 80th, and we had a family gathering at Saunders on Rye Harbor, which is no longer there. It was a beautiful day, as was that Tuesday morning, September 11th, 16 years ago today.
I was driving to work when I got a call from my wife saying that one of the World Trade Center towers was on fire. She said the news was saying a plane hit it, that it may be terrorism. I thought it was retaliation for the conviction of the blind Sheik behind the first bombing of the World Trade Center. The fear in her voice was palpable and I turned around and headed for home. After listening to a bit of the news, I called the office and suggested everyone go home to be with their families. Something wasn’t right about this, but I had no idea what was already in motion.
I walked through the garage door and that sweet little two year old boy who had sat in his grandfather’s lap and stuck his hand right into the frosting on their cake just two days before, reached for me. As I took him from my wife, the second plane struck. He pointed at the TV and said “plane” and then buried his head in my shoulder crying as the flames burst from tower two. We were in shock, like so many others that beautiful morning that was ripped away from us all in a senseless act of brutal hatred and mass murder.
Later that day, I would see a caravan of Crown Victoria’s speed past our home. I hoped they were heading to the neighborhood elementary school where our two daughters were. The school was on lockdown and parents were asked to stay away. It was felt it would be best to let the kids proceed with a seemingly normal day to also allow parents time to grasp what was happening and figure out a way to talk with their children about it. I feared those cars driving by for a worse reason. Sadly, I was right. The phone rang not a few minutes later, confirming that a neighbor around the corner was the co-pilot of American 11 that morning. The shock and horror deepened.
That next morning was another beautiful clear day. I was taking out the trash and realized the silence was surreal. We live near an airport and under a major trans Atlantic flight path. The sky was eerily quiet that morning until a dull rumble became the distinct growl of an F-15 as it came into view, heading north, making a large arc as it turned for the return south toward Boston.
This year, I had the opportunity to visit the National 9/11 Memorial, a small part of which is depicted in the image above. I was there with my oldest daughter who was 10 in 2001 and is now a beautiful 26 year old woman and that sweet little two year old boy, who has blossomed into a handsome, strong and tall 18 year old man. It was a moving, emotional, sad yet necessary visit. We found the name of our former neighbor and a former professor from my alma mater.
Sixteen years feels like yesterday. I know people who lost people and some who are still grappling with the post traumatic stress of being in Manhattan that day. My children have grown into adulthood during a terrible time in human history. Our middle daughter, now 21, is a rookie police officer, trying to help make the world a better place. The divisiveness of intolerance and religious hatred have spread around the world and across the United States of America. It makes me sad, but I refuse to lose hope. Humanity has to be better than this and not just on days like today, when everyone talks about national unity and coming together for one another, whether in the wake of a horrible terrorist attack or in the calm after a pair of terrible storms.
Over seventy year ago, the world said we must Never Forget. For the last 16 years, we have been saying Never Forget on this hallowed day. Never Forget and take action to make the world a better place for all people, everywhere, period.