Every year on this date I am thrust back to my college dorm room in Anderson, Indiana as I watched the NBC Today Show news broadcast of a plane that hit the World Trade Center. I know I am not the only one who saw the show, nor am I the only one who remembers exactly what they were doing when IT happened. Millions of people – worldwide – can recount the details of 9.11.01.
After hearing a few of the explanations on tv as to why this plane flew into one of the tallest structures in New York City, I saw an image that will forever be etched into my memory – the second plane. I watched on my dorm room tv as the second plane flew right into second tower and I stood there somewhat paralyzed from what I had just witnessed. I remember not wanting to get ready for my class that morning. I remember just wanting to sit and watch the events unfold right in front of me. I remember seeing hundreds of first responders (police and fire personnel) rushing into the buildings as everyone else was rushing out. I remember praying – I didn’t know exactly what I needed to pray for – I just prayed for something – anything – because at 20 years of age I could hardly process what it was I just saw.
It has been 17 years since that moment in my dorm room. Much has changed – but the memory and significance of what happened has not.
A few years ago I stood at a 9/11 memorial ceremony with my husband – a Fairborn Firefighter – and our two kids. Also at that ceremony was a cameraman from a local news station. Afterwards the cameraman was looking to interview someone – mainly a parent who had brought their kids to the ceremony. He wanted to know why it was so important to us – as parents – that our kids be at something like this.
Had the ceremony not just ended with a bagpiper playing amazing grace I may have let the guy interview me. But that song – in that moment – all I could hear were the hundreds of bagpipes and drums being played at the funeral of a fallen firefighter – and knowing that song was played 343 times – the thought just left me an emotional mess.
So I told him no to being on camera, but I have thought about what I would have told him.
I would have said that my husband is a firefighter and I wanted my kids to experience the ceremony that honored the lives of the many who so quickly gave theirs up for the sake of others. I want them to know that there were guys from Fairborn, Ohio that went to Ground Zero and helped in the search efforts – giving up time with their families to help their brothers and sisters in New York. I want them to see how far people are willing to go to help someone else.
I want them to understand that their father is a hero – and that he does something incredible – and helps many people every time he walks out of our door and into the firehouse – even though he would never admit it.
I want them to understand (but pray they never experience) that we live with an often sobering and terrifying reality – a reality that the spouses, children and family members of 343 FDNY firemen faced 17 years ago – the reality that when those firemen started their shift they would not finish their watch. I know my kids are not exactly old enough to fully understand this reality, and that is ok, however what is more important for them to understand and know, is that they have a huge fire family that surrounds them all the time.
I want them to know that when you get knocked down – you don’t stay down – you rise back up stronger than ever before. I want them to know that a group of men sacrificed their lives to avert a plane from causing more destruction. I want them to know of the courage that came from these individuals, and that they too can have the same courage in life.
I want them to know there are men and women that continue to fight for our freedom each and every day – and to them we are grateful.
I want my kids to know that 9.11.01 was a terrible day for our country – but out of the darkness and ash, a light arose and hope was found. I want them to hear the prayers for healing and unity of our country and world. I want them to know that God did not cause the evil of that day, but surrounded the people – providing them strength and resolve to overcome the situation. I want them to hear the stories of what happened in the days that followed – the stories of loss and heartache, but more importantly the many stories of heroism, bravery, compassion, and unity from all aspects of life that showed the best of who we are as a people – and a country.
I wanted my kids at that ceremony because I never want them to miss the significance, sacrifice, and hope of 9.11.01.