Remembering 9/11

World Trade Center
I suppose today is a lot like November 22nd to me – a day that I will always remember “where I was” when tragedy struck.

I was a young boy in grade school in 1963 and I remember our teachers shuttling us out of our classroom at Fullerwood Elementery School – sending us home to be with our families and leaving our parents to explain a strange new word to us; “assassinate”.

I remember thinking why would anyone kill our president — someone who everyone seemed to like so much and appeared so popular on the television (even in black-and-white)?

Over the next few months and years, I would learn several uses for the strange new word “assassinate” soon to be remembered with Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, Robert F. Kennedy and Sirhan Sirhan as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Earl Ray in 1968.

But by September 11, 2001, I was a grown man. I owned a business on St. Augustine Beach and I recall a customer (who happened to be the daughter of my Godmother) stopping into my store just after I had opened.

She asked if I heard about the plane crashing into the World Trade Center and I hadn’t. It was early and the stories being reported on the news were not completely clear. I closed the store and went home because I didn’t have a television set in the shop.

By the time I got to the house, I flipped on the television just in time to witness the footage of United Airlines Flight 175 careening into the South Tower – this time I was watching in real time and in living color.

I was fortunate not to have any family directly affected by the terrorist attacks that day although there were opportunities for some of my cousins to have been killed. One is a flight attendant and two others live nearby and travel into Manhattan regularly.

Watching the story unfold is not like being at ground zero. I know this because over the past 7 years, I have had the honor to speak to some of the 9/11 survivors who were in the nearby buildings. Their stories are unlike anything that those of us glued to our sets could have imagined.

I woke up this morning and kissed my wife goodbye as she left the house for work; not unlike the estimated 2,974 victims who were innocently killed simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The majority of the victims were business people and civilians who became unwilling casualties in a war they didn’t even know we were fighting. I thought about that as my wife drove out of the driveway and for a split second, a shudder ran through me as I tried to imagine my life if a similar event were to strike us.

Who would have ever thought that we would be fighting a war against a foreign threat on American soil? Homeland Security is a major portion of our federal budget for both military and civilian personnel today and the war on terrorism is real.

So on September 11, 2008, I think we should all pause for a moment to realize that we should not take the important things like our families and loved ones for granted; remembering and honoring the lives lost by our fellow Americans seven years ago.

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