By Will Johnson
EAST TEXAS – Friday marks the 19th anniversary of the tragic events that struck our country on Sept. 11, 2001. It doesn’t seem possible that it is has been 19 years, but it has.
I was working for IBM, at the time, and had just returned from a mini-vacation to New Orleans and had the day off. When the ringing of the phone woke me up, I was none too pleased. My sister had called and said to turn on the TV.
I found the remote and clicked it on to see the first World Trade Center tower was on fire. Dan Rather reported it appeared a plane had “accidentally” crashed into the tower. As I continued to watch, selfish thoughts of crawling back into bed crept in. These thoughts were quickly replaced by fear as the news feed showed the second plane crashing into the other tower.
Next, came the reports of a third plane crashing into the Pentagon. A fourth plane was reported to have crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. All I could do was sit and watch this horrific tragedy unfold.
I felt completely powerless. I was mad. I was angry. I was glued to CNN and couldn’t turn away. I cried … man, how I cried. How could anyone do this? The people in the Twin Towers hadn’t done anything to deserve that. We weren’t at war with anyone.
Why would someone try and blow up the Pentagon? Why did they crash the plane in Pennsylvania?
As the news blared on endlessly in the background, I heard my dog bark to go outside. I had been lost in my own thoughts and turned around just in time to see people leaping to their deaths. I saw people who were trapped in the towers decide to jump. It was one thing to see this type of thing in the movies, but this was no movie. Then… the towers collapsed.
I couldn’t help but think…why? The police and firemen working to get people out were dead and why? No one really knew what was going on yet. The news anchors started to speculate and that’s all it was, just speculation. Nobody knew anything other than America was under attack.
At the time, I lived in Dallas, just a few miles from Addison Airport and 20 minutes or so from D/FW International Airport. I never realized how many planes flew into and out of the D/FW area until it was announced that ALL flights had been grounded. The skies seemed so empty. The streets were just as empty and the entire city seemed to be in a state of disbelief.
Later in the evening, President Bush addressed the nation. In his speech, he revealed what many of us already suspected – terrorists were behind these acts. The name of Osama Bin Laden was not a household name as of yet, and most of us had never heard of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban and we wouldn’t for a few days. But now, we at least had a starting point.
“I have ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and their families and to conduct a full scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act,” President Bush said.
As the world began to recover from that morning, I saw signs of hope. People were genuinely nice to each other. Acts of kindness could be seen at the grocery store and at work. Major league baseball took a few days off and then came back with extraordinary tributes to the fallen. Hearing “God Bless America” at a Yankees game as sung by NYPD policeman Daniel Rodriguez was jaw dropping. Seeing the huge American flags covering football fields at NFL games and seeing George Teague, with the Cowboys, busting out of the tunnel at Texas Stadium proudly waving our country’s flag was awe inspiring.
For a brief few days after 9/11, no one was anything but American. There was no skin color and there was no racial divide. It didn’t matter if you were a Democrat or a Republican. We were all Americans and we were all in it together. Sadly, the further we get from those immediate days after tragedy struck, the more we forget this feeling of unity. Let’s use this day as a time to remember the fallen from that bright September morning of 2001. Remember the young men and women in our armed services who have given their lives trying to ensure this would never happen again. And remember what it was like to pull together as a nation.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.