I have seen a handful of items on social media today labeled “Never Forget” commemorating the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
In some ways it seems like it was yesterday, in some ways it seems like it was 50 years ago. It’s so hard to believe that all the 16-year-olds running around were not yet alive when the attacks happened. For me, the day is so burned into my brain that there’s no way I can forget.
It was a Tuesday. I was on vacation that week. My wife & I were set to take a trip to Orlando on September 12. I got up a little before 8:00, just meandered around our apartment, made some breakfast, and sat down around 9:00 and turned on the TV. I don’t know what I was watching the night before, but the TV was on the ABC affiliate station when I turned it on that morning. ABC News had broken into programming. The first plane had just hit one of the towers. I sat glued to the TV the rest of the day. ABC was showing a live shot of the 1 remaining tower, and I watched live as the second tower collapsed. There was a very long silence, followed by Peter Jennings simply saying, “Oh my God.”
A few minutes later came the announcement that the entire aviation system was locked down. I knew at that point we were not going to Orlando that week. I wasn’t really concerned. Some time later in the day, the announcement came that if you had paid for any air travel, you could get a refund. I called and got one from Expedia for our trip. No one seemed to care much about travel arrangements. I had to place 2 calls, and there was obvious grief going through both ends of those calls. Everyone was devastated.
Knowing our plans were on hold, I called my manager to tell her that I would be in the office on Wednesday. No reason to use the vacation days when you can’t get out of town. My manager was fine with that, so I went back to work on Wednesday. I was eventually able to get our vacation re-booked for early December, and I adjusted my allotted vacation days to take the Orlando trip and still have some left over for the last 2 weeks of the year.
In the weeks following the attacks, the grief and shock among just about every person I came in contact with was palpable. No one seemed to care if the person on your right or left had the same political bent as you, who you had voted for in the highly controversial 2000 presidential election, what your sexual orientation was, or any of the things we use today to issue iron-clad declarations that anyone who is different from “me” is the very definition of evil.
It saddens me that things have deteriorated so completely that the prevailing belief among people is, “I’m right, everyone else is wrong, and everyone else is also completely evil.” I’m starting to wonder if God isn’t ready to slap all of us down, the way we were slapped down on September 11, 2001. Back then, before the attacks, the national media had done a fantastic job of convincing most people that if a person voted for Bush when you had voted for Gore, or vice versa, that other person was wrong, and it was your sworn duty sent from God to let that person know they were evil for voting for the person you didn’t vote for. We’ve pretty much gotten back to that point now.
I pray that we don’t need another September 11 tragedy to wake us up. Hopefully we stop the nonsense before we have to get hit by true evil – and the true evil is terrorists, not people who believe differently.