Remembering Sept. 11
This Saturday, on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I was driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I got off at the Lehigh Valley exit and waited to pay my toll. As I was waiting, I noticed a sticker on the tollbooth window. It was fading and cracking, but I could faintly see a flag with "God Bless America" written underneath it.
My guess was this sticker was put up right after the Sept. 11 attacks -- just like many of the stickers, signs and flags that were displayed in the wake of the tragedy. And I was starting to wonder: is our remembrance of this horrific event fading and cracking, just like that sticker?
To be completely honest, I don't even think I remembered it was Sept. 11 until I saw that sticker. And after I realized that, I felt extremely guilty. It may not have impacted me this past Saturday, but it certainly did 9 years earlier.
My mom once told me she could remember exactly where she was when she heard JFK was assassinated. Pretty powerful, considering she was in second grade at the time. For me, on Sept. 11, 2001, I was in 11th grade, sitting in my third period English class. Suddenly, Mr. Williams, my 10th grade history teacher, ran into Ms. Weidner's room and told her to turn on the television -- "a travesty has occurred." He told us airplanes had hit the World Trade Center.
Ms. Weidner turned on the TV, and we sat there, riveted and in horror. The rest of the day was a repeat of the same thing in every class. I remember walking down the hallway and seeing every single class sitting in their seats and watching everything unfold on the television.
I was frantic that day. My dad, who travels frequently for his job, was driving to New York City. I had no idea where he was. I kept trying to reach him on his cell phone, but got no answer. I also couldn't get a hold of my mom to see if she knew where dad was.
I can't tell you how relieved I felt when we pulled in my driveway after school and I saw my dad's car. He had been driving to NYC, had heard on the radio what had happened and turned around.
For all the relief I felt, there were many children who lost their parents that day; many wives and husbands who lost their spouses. Friends were forever gone.
Our nation was filled with sorrow, anger and a newfound sense of pride for our country. But, as many writers and regular old Joes speculated, that pride has died down considerably over the past 9 years.
If nothing else, the anniversary of Sept. 11 should be a day to remember not only those lives that were lost, but how we felt afterwards -- proud to be Americans. So even if you remembered late in the day (like I did), I hope you took a few minutes to reflect on your experience that day 9 years ago -- and what it was like to live in a nation where we stood united.
Share your memories of the Sept. 11 attacks and your thoughts on the anniversary here. You can also check out where your fellow laboratorians were on that day on our Facebook page.