In my short span on this great planet we call earth, I have learned that there are moments in our lives that leave such an imprint that they are as vivid when we look back on them as the moment in which the memory was made. Some are our private memories and others we shared with history and the greater world around us. My mother who is 35 years my senior can still without any loss of detail remember the day John F. Kennedy Jr. was shot and when his brother Robert was also assassinated. I remember being a kindergartner sitting on the rug with my class watching the space shuttle Challenger launch and the absolute horror of its explosion. I remember finding out about the building that my mother worked in being taken over by a mad man and the hostage standoff just one floor beneath her. I remember the day she was diagnosed with cancer. I remember the day we got the phone call my father had passed. I remember the exact details of how I first discovered I was attracted to my husband (the first and only time I was hit over the head with and blindsided by being attracted to someone – rather odd feeling and a story for another day). And the day he asked me to marry him. But perhaps because of my age at the time or because of where I was in my own personal journey, the events of September 11 will forever stay burned into my mind far more than most.
I was still in college at the time…attending a junior college for Japanese foreign language class and a private college finishing my degree. The one had been in session for a while and the other was just starting that day. I was getting up beginning my morning routine when I received a phone call from a good friend and my director in Mary Kay at the time. I could hear the urgency in her voice when she asked, “Danielle, do you have the news on?” As I often avoid news because of the negativity it propagates, I honestly replied, “No but I can turn it on; why?” To which she replied, “We are being attacked.”
At the same time she said this, I turned on the news and literally as she said those words, I watched the second plane fly into the towers. My knees gave way. I hit the floor. I cried out balling, “Oh God!” She and I sat on the phone silent for what seemed like hours but were only brief minutes. In disbelief, I watched as these two shining columns of steel burned and waited for answers. I saw people jump. I saw the Pentagon burn and I watched as both towers collapsed. Crying… Sobbing… and in a surreal state of being, I began to get dressed for class. I worried about my family in D.C. I worried about my family in New York. I worried about my brother, not sure to what extent law enforcement throughout our country would be facing danger. I thought of my father, a once good and strong soldier, and thought about what he must be thinking as he looked down from heaven. I wept.
I walked in to my Japanese class with a solemn quiet and watched and experienced in what I can only describe as a state of shock and surreal disbelief as they joked and laughed without recognition or consciousness of what our nation was going through. I walked out. To this day, I believe I had an angel with me because while I remember driving, the path, the freeway, everything. I don’t remember consciously doing so.
I remember moving through the day in a state of numb. Going to class and having a teach give respect to what was going on and another wise enough to cancel class. I went home. I went to bed and I wept more. Uncertain of many things. Then I got up the next day, hoping and imagining that it had all been a bad dream…but it wasn’t.
What I will also remember is solidarity and patriotism and charity that this nation exhibited in the aftermath of one of this nation’s greatest tragedies. I will remember the firefighters and police and emergency personnel that ran into those buildings when everyone else was running out. I will remember the bravery and courage of those passengers on Flight 93. I will remember the food drives, the blood drives, the giving. I will remember the putting aside the differences that we all have to remember we are “all one nation, under God.” and when few were attacked, all were attacked. I will remember the prayers. I will remember the big kindness, the little kindness. I will remember the person, who saw me crying, worrying about family, handing me a tissue. I will remember.
So on this September 11, as I head to my Bible Study class, I will drive in silence reflecting on that day. On what happened and where we have risen from those ashes. I will remember a war we are still fighting. I will remember those loss and those saved. I will remember our soldiers. I will reflect on what I saw…on what didn’t have to be. I will pause throughout the day, not letting it be just another day, and remember.