I actually called her a liar.
I’ve heard it said, that each of us have that moment, the event, we will never forget. For me, and for many, that moment happened twenty years ago today.
I was at work that morning, calmly going about my job. Setting up machines, packing orders, talking with coworkers. It was long before everyone had smartphones so for us, during working hours, we were cut off from the outside world. I was already the assistant supervisor at that point so I had more mobility. Everything was also not all computer managed. Every hour, I had to collect all of the company copies of case labels and carry them to the front office. One of the office personnel came through between trips. She asked if I had heard, if I knew what was going on in the outside world. No, of course not. Then she told me. I don’t recall my exact words, but I know that I basically called her a liar. That couldn’t be true, couldn’t be right. A short time later, I carried the labels up front and had to apologize. It was true. It was all true.
They had brought in a small television from somewhere, you couldn’t see the picture well and reception in the building wasn’t the best. You could see enough. I know that conversation happened as I stood there, mostly about the horror. In shock at what I was seeing, the words seemed more of a muffled background noise. They would try to fill me in on anything I missed between trips. I made extra trips that day and no one complained. No one stopped me from going. We were all basically working on a form of auto pilot.
I remember when they had stopped all air traffic. For me to get to the front office I had to go outside the plant. It was easier to walk the back access roadway from the area I worked, up to the front office avoiding other manufacturing areas. The silence was defining. Looking up to the sky and seeing only that bright Carolina Blue sky, no chem trails, no sounds of small planes, knowledge that no large planes were flying, the silence was unnerving. It was a long eight hour shift. I needed to get home, I needed to see my family. We were a people in shock. How? Why? Who?
I sat spellbound in front of the television, watching reports, seeing the horrors. Again and again it showed. Long hours of discussing what had happened, how many were lost. That horrible cloud of dust and people running for their life. The fear. You hear the tales of heroism. Where this individual, this group came to the aid of one or more. I’ve since watched the video of the armada of boats of all type that came to ferry people off to safety. Of those running down the stairs who help those injured or less able, escape. I with others, have seen the photos of those falling from the building. We’ve read the transcripts, heard the final messages, of those trapped, from those on the hijacked plane. Our heart breaks and bleeds from the pain and the strength, in the voices.
We had to stop watching when the reporting began to bother my preteen son. I’ve said often, my son is an old soul, and the pain and suffering of others was bothering him greatly. It was effecting him and other children in school. One cannot fully explain to a child how such a thing could happen, especially when it was a deliberate act. How could one knowingly, intentionally, deliberately take the lives of so many? How, do you explain the concept of such evil to a young, trusting, heart and not damage it irreparably?
At one point, a day maybe two, after the attacks, we went in search of an American flag. The stores had none, they were all flying from porches, real and make shift flag poles. They were on cars and hanging from railings. From our home to the main big box store is less than three miles. I counted almost two hundred flags in that space.
September eleventh was an attempt to break us. September eleventh, instead brought us together. We moved at that time, as one. We did everything and anything we could to help each other. We watched as they searched for survivors. We watched as volunteers joined, they brought in search dogs to help.
September eleventh, was and remains, a horrible, tragic, sad time in our history. Thousands of lives lost in those moments, and since due to the effects of the searching. We suffered as one. We cried with those who lost loved ones, we cried for those who died. We saluted the group who tried to retake the plane or to make sure it didn’t reach its target. In that, they succeeded. Books and songs have been written. Conspiracy theories abound. Social media is filled with the photos and the memes, commenting.
Most of all, we remember. We remember where we were. We remember what we were doing. We remember, we respect, and we mourn. We remember the moment, for the moment, when we all came together as one. No matter the race, the religion, the status, no matter anything that would divide us, we were one. Not broken as intended, but brought together. Not broken, but strengthened.
My only other thought is this.
Today will be filled with memories, with acknowledgements, with memorials. Many will speak, wreaths will be laid. Tears will be shed. There will be words of respect for the many who fought, the many who struggled, the many who rushed in without worry over their own life as they sought to do what they had always done, Rescue those in need. Even as the world crashed and burned.
Twenty years later, how divided we are, not by outside forces, but from within. Not within a few minutes, but slowly, moment by moment, word by word, incident by incident. Like a cancer slowly consuming its victim, we are falling apart. Crumbling. We are better than this. We are stronger. We are more capable. If we would only remember who we are. Remember our humanity over the external. If so many of us would stop thinking only of ourselves, being so entitled, being so self serving. If only, we would stop destroying, stop tearing down and tearing apart, and start standing together and building. Stop allowing differences to divide us and allow them to make life better and more beautiful. Stop standing defiant and stubborn in ignorance and make ways to see understanding. We don’t need a tragic event to make us better. We only need a bit more compassion, understanding and determination. In truth, being more understanding and compassionate doesn’t make us weak as we may fear, it makes us strong.