“Remembering 9/11,” Sept. 10, 2019

Eighteen years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, 19 terrorists hijacked and crashed four U.S. passenger planes, killing all on board and nearly 3,000 on the ground. Two flights hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. The third hit the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers and crew tried to stop the hijackers.

Most of us who are old enough to remember that day have a personal story to tell about it. This is mine.

Early that morning, my husband’s father awoke at his home in Stockton, Calif., turned on CNN, and immediately phoned us. While my husband stared in horror at the TV, I tried to call my son in New York.

Josh was living in Manhattan, appearing in a TV series called “Ed.” I had visited him often enough to know his apartment was near the World Trade Center. He drove by those towers every day on his way to the set. I needed to hear his voice and know he was OK.

Phone lines were swamped. I couldn’t get through. There was nothing to do but wait and pray.

At noon, when he finally was able to get a call through to me, he was standing on the balcony of his apartment watching smoke billow up from the World Trade Center. He told me he had watched a firetruck pull out of a station that morning.

“It was loaded with big guys like me,” he said, “hanging on the side of that truck, going to risk their lives to save others.”

He later learned that all 15 of the firemen who were on that truck lost their lives that day.

After we said goodbye, I broke down and cried. I was thankful my son was safe. But my heart was broken for the thousands of lives that had been stolen, and for countless others who were grieving for them.

The news became even more personal that evening as I tried to comfort a neighbor who had just received confirmation that her daughter had died in the plane crash at the Pentagon.

Eighteen years is a long time to remember so much grief and pain. But there are things about that day I hope never to forget.

First, I want to remember the victims and those who mourn for them. They are my neighbors and loved ones and friends.

I want to remember, not the terrorists, but the heroes, those who ran toward danger, not from it; the firefighters and police officers and others who risked and lost their lives so that others might live; and the soldiers who have served and continue to serve to ensure it never happens again.

I want to remember how it felt to hear my son’s voice and know that he was safe. I want to feel that kind of gratitude every day.

I want to remember, not the horror of that day, but the grace that came with it — all the good that rose up in the face of such evil. We may never have been stronger as a nation, or better as people, than we were in the wake of 9/11. I want to believe we hold the power to be that strong and that good always.

I want to remember to pray for our country and our world — and for our enemies, because my faith commands it. I don’t know if prayer changes those we pray for, but I’ve seen it change those who pray, including me.

I want to remember that life is short and precious and fragile.

I want to remember the vow I made seeing people on TV jump from a burning building to their death: “I will live every day,” I said, “as if it were my last.”

I don’t always keep that vow, but to honor the victims of 9/11, I want to remember to try.

Most of all I want to remember to be alive. To make decisions based on love, not fear. To live life freely to its fullest.

I want to remember that the opposite of terror is freedom.

Comments

  1. Pamela Davis says:

    Amen and amen. God bless America!

  2. Diana Whitehead says:

    I will never forget that day. I remember trying for hours and hours to reach family and finally got through twelve hours later. My brother-in-law was on the walkway between the towers and my sister-in-law was on the 86th floor. People were telling them to go back to work it wasn’t anything. America will never forget.

  3. Betty McNall says:

    Amen! I often listen to Alan Jackson’s song Rememer When!

  4. Kathy Armstrong says:

    Beautifully said. Thank you Sharon.

  5. Kate Sciacca says:

    Burnett, Beamer, Bingham and Glick. Those four men exemplified the very finest in American courage. None of us will forget “9/11” —and we must teach our grandchildren the horror of that day. I always felt it was some kind of miracle that cell phones worked at several thousand feet … ever tried getting a signal after takeoff? I’ve never been able to do that. Yes, the permissive will of God was present in the evil of that day, but His Perfect and providential Will was there too.

    On a lighter note, my better half turned 46 that day – and I had planned to do the gift shopping that morning at the local mall. Living near Travis AFB folks were concerned that our area could be a terrorist target. The mall was closed. Downtown shops were closed. Target was closed. The only open store I could find was my local Raley’s. That day I coined the phrase “if you can’t find it at Raley’s, you DON’T NEED IT!!!!” 😜. I managed to buy gifts, dinner, dessert, decorations…. everything- but it was still a somber celebration.

  6. Jana Carlson says:

    Amen!

  7. SYDNEY S LOVE says:

    Thank you for these words that make me stop and think to be thankful for every breath that I take. I love that you share your heart with your readers. That day left so many broken hearts. Yes as you said, prayer sometimes changes the person praying more than the person being prayed for.

  8. Judy Bell says:

    Your words speak for all of us, thank you.

  9. Ruby Pestotnik says:

    Thank you for sharing, Always remember never forget! <3

  10. Cathy Rhyne says:

    Thank you for always sharing what’s on your ❤️

  11. Vickie Garrison says:

    Thank you for sharing this remembrance and thankfulness.

  12. Jeannette Buck says:

    Yes! Yes! and YES!!

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