Six months after September 11, 2001, I wrote a column for the Madison County Journal recalling the attack. It did me well to read it again on this eve of the 9th Anniversary.
Time has passed since the 9-11 Attack, but I still remember vividly the events of that morning and the days following.
I remember sitting on my couch watching the World Trade Center towers burn and watching the second plane strike over and over. Like a perverted bayou, the fire and smoke and dust engulfed Manhattan in a bog of agony.
I remember watching the first tower collapse like an avalanche roaring down a mountain and burying hundreds of rescue workers.
I remember watching a fireman interviewed by a journalist. He had taken off his helmet to breathe before going back into the fire zone. The journalist asked him a few questions, but he cut them short saying he had to go back to work. The journalist asked if he was scared the second tower might collapse as well. He said he was scared, and he wasn’t a hero, he was just doing his job, and he had friends in the rumble that needed his help. He went back in.
I remember a few minutes later, the second tower collapsed.
I remember the Pentagon on fire. I remember the White House and Capitol evacuated. I remember jets on combat patrol in the skies over Washington DC.
I remember the victims, covered in debris, bleeding and burned: casualties of the largest terrorist attack in the history of the world; victims of Al Qaeda’s twisted political agenda.
I remember Lady Liberty standing in a cloud of destruction.
I remember when the Mayor of New York became Mayor of America. I remember when the gruff Rudy Giuliani became a face of compassion. I remember how he took to the streets, into the heart of the devastation, and brought with him leadership and determination and hope.
I remember when all air traffic was grounded and there was silence in the sky. I remember a few days later hearing a plane in the sky and knowing we would prevail. I remember National Guardsmen at the airports.
I remember firemen raising the Flag from a sea of rubble. I remember that Flag at the World Series. I remember that Flag at the Olympic Games.
I remember the fire burned for months. Round-the-clock rescue and clean up crews kept constant streams of water pouring onto the smoking rubble. I remember the scar cut into the New York skyline.
I remember the Star Spangled Banner played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. I remember sympathy from the streets of Paris, prayers from temples in Cambodia, tributes from Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, condolences from nations around the world. I remember that citizens from 80 other countries died with our own citizens.
I remember the memorial service at the National Cathedral. I remember tears and confusion. I remember acceptance and healing. I remember grief and anger.
I remember, “Let’s roll.”
I remember boots down on the ground in Afghanistan. I remember routing the Taliban. I remember Mike Spann.
I remember feeding the children of Afghanistan. I remember citizens of that nation dancing in the streets as liberty came to town: just as they had in East Germany with the collapse of communism; just as they had in France with the collapse of Nazism.
I remember when President George W. Bush addressed the Joint Session of Congress on September 20. He presented to our friends, our enemies, and all the world America’s position in the coming war. The Bush Doctrine said, “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” I remember the bipartisan applause.
I remember Republicans and Democrats united against our enemies. I remember Senators singing “God Bless America.” I remember uninterrupted government during a crisis. I remember the Flag at half-mast.
I remember that Bush remembers. “I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people.”
I remember special afternoon editions of newspapers nationwide. I remember prayers at special Tuesday night church services. I remember phone calls and e-mails as friends and family connected with each other.
I don’t remember Monday, September 10.
But I will always remember that Tuesday morning. I don’t think any of us will ever forget.