911: Memories and the Lessons I Pray we NEVER Forget...
I was 25 years old and living 14 hours away from home when the Twin Towers were hit. I had only been in the TV industry for a little over a year at the time and had recently moved from Indiana to Abilene Texas to take my first paid on-air job.
On the morning of Tuesday September 11th, 2001, I was working my normal morning shift at the NBC affiliate, KRBC-9. I had just completed my final main weather hit when I went back to the anchor desk to join Kyle McAlister, our morning news anchor at the time, when the news flash hit of an airplane striking the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
We quickly went to NBC Network Coverage as events unfolded while Kyle and I sat at the desk on stand-by. I remember the confusion on both the local and national level of the initial reports. Was it a private plane or something bigger? It was very hard to tell based on the scale of the tower and the available camera footage.
The initial reports were that of a small private plane, possibly a Cessna had accidentally veered into the skyscraper. I remember turning to Kyle and said, I don’t think this was an accident. I went on to explain that it was a perfect early fall-like day. No fog, no storms, just a crystal-clear blue sky. He shrugged in disbelief.
As network coverage continued with Katie Couric and Matt Lauer interviewing witnesses, and more video became available, it was apparent that this was no small plane and then, just moments later as we were watching the live NBC feed, the second plane hit.
We instantly looked at each other in complete shock and at once realizing the scope of what was occurring to our country.
After that unforgettably long day at work, an intense sadness overcame me. I remember going back to my apartment that evening and weeping for the loss of so many innocent souls. I remember the difficulty understanding what we all just witnessed.
One thing quickly became clear however was that a battle of the spirit was on full display and pure evil had manifest itself for all to plainly see.
Even as a person of faith, I was overcome by fear and a disillusionment of the world we were living in. I remember the many prayers for those whose lives had come to such an abrupt end, for the countless families, the widows and widowers, for the children without a parent and for the parents without children. I just couldn’t understand how our God could allow such a heinous act to occur.
Despite the company of my coworkers and friends at the TV station, I remember an intense loneliness that followed in the aftermath and a longing to be home and with family that was approximately 900 miles away. I was heartbroken for the victims and our country.
While the clear presence of evil allowed fear and despair to take hold there was something else that began to manifest itself immediately after the attack. It was the actions of our firefighters and our police. It was the heroism that was also on full display as hundreds of first responders raced into the burning towers to evacuate as many as possible.
It was the passengers and crew members on the fateful Flight 93 that made the decision to take out the hijackers knowing full well that their lives would likely end as well. I remember the 911 audio of Todd Beamer who after reciting the Lord’s Prayer with the operator, courageously said, “let’s roll!”.
I remember the actions and words of President George W. Bush who just three days after the attack, was at the site of the fallen World Trade Center exclaiming “As we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens, I can hear you. I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you.. and the people that knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”
This spontaneous bullhorn speech was followed by an immediate reaction from the hundreds of rescue workers chanting. “USA, USA, USA…”
And just like that, there was purpose for the fallen, there was hope for the future and there was an incredible sense of patriotism that was felt not just in New York or Washington DC or around the field outside of Shanksville PA, but across the entire nation.
For once, the partisan politics had stopped. There were no Democrats, there were no Republicans, we were all just Americans who were immediately united by a common enemy.
Just like 60 years earlier at Pearl Harbor, we had taken a heavy blow. We had been sucker punched and were knocked off our feet. But amid the chaos, the destruction and death, we rediscovered who we were. We were the UNITED States.
With flags waving on every house, prayers for a better tomorrow in every home, we put our petty differences aside and were reminded of all the great things, like our heroes and our heritage, that made us different from the rest of the world. We were proud to be Americans.
I pray that we never forget that.
Meteorologist, Speaker, Talk Show Host, Blogger and American Patriot