I remember someone once saying that as horrible as the day was, eventually the memory of what happened on September 11, 2001, would fade a bit and its importance would become on par with that of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I didn’t want to believe it at the time, but I did. Today I believe it even more.
You see, I knew the date yesterday. I saw it on my calendars, wrote it on the check I used to pay Erin, the woman who gives horseback riding lessons to Emma. At no point in the day did I think about what today’s date was going to be or what that meant. I didn’t think about it at all until I turned on the TV after my shower this morning and someone on The Weather Channel mentioned it (for some reason, all the major networks would not come in at all on my television this morning).
Hearing that, being reminded of it, was profound. It brought back the memories and the fear and uncertainty. But it took a reminder, something I never thought would happen. I think that scares me more than what happened that day, because while it’s human nature to move on from tragedy, some events need to be remembered. This one especially, because the day is eight years in the past, but the threat remains.
On September 11, 2001, I thought I wanted to work in government and I was “interning” for a horrible woman named Ellie. I got to the office building where we worked, but couldn’t get into the office because she was late and had the key. My aunt (who also worked there and got me the job) and I sat in the downstairs cafeteria waiting for Elie, who showed up out of breath and raring to go because there were a million things to do that day, and quickly.
We got into the office and started our day when the phone rang. “A 737 just crashed into one of the Twin Towers,” the person on the line told Ellie. “Turn on the TV.”
At that point, it was only one. At that point, it was still (in our minds) a terrible freak accident.
And then plane number two hit. Two. Two planes. Two towers. This was no accident.
Three thousand-plus people died that day. Innocent people. People from all nationalities and all races. People who left behind children and wives and husbands and parents and friends. People who just wanted to go to work and make some money to pay some bills and live a decent and comfortable life. Some of them became heroes that day. I’m sure many who died surprised even themselves with their bravery.
Since that day, I’ve met people who were there or knew people who were there. I’ve read first-hand accounts of wheelchair-bound people unable to get on elevators, waiting for rescue workers to come for them. Rescue never came.
I’m trying very hard not to burst into tears as I write this. I know it’s difficult to read. But we must remember. We must realize this enemy, who would commit such a heinous and unthinkable act of terror, is still out there.
While the memory of that day may fade, it will never leave us. In the summer of 2003, the lights went out all across the Northeast United States. I was home when it went out. I didn’t think anything about it until my aunt called and told me it wasn’t an isolated blackout: it was the entire Northeast. She was panicking quietly. I began panicking not quite so quietly. Emma was at the pool just up the street. I ran there to insist she come home because I was certain the blackout was a prelude to something much more sinister. My first thought now was not that this was an accident, but that it, too, was deliberate.
It wasn’t. As the details emerged — a power surge caused (I think) the Niagara Falls power grid to fail for the second time in history, plunging an enormous number of people into darkness. Well, not darkness exactly, since it was the middle of the afternoon. But it took a while to get the power going again, so the blackout lasted into the night, and longer than that for some people.
Happily, what could have been another horrible attack turned into neighbors hosting cookouts on their patios because they couldn’t cook inside. It was not too hot nor too cold that day, so the lack of heat or air conditioning wasn’t a problem. And there were even isolated pockets inside the blacked out neighborhoods that retained their power, so grocery stores and even street lights in places continued functioning as usual.
But the reaction to the initial outage was a direct result of 9/11. Regardless of the blackout’s cause, the next time that happens, I will have the same first reaction. Because we can never be too careful.