I will always remember where I was at 0903 hrs on September 11, 2001. I was at work. A cadet was also on radio shift with me and we had ABC news on the radio room TV because we didn’t have cable yet (having just moved into a new facility). The ABC affiliate was really the only channel that came in good on the rabbit ears antenna and it didn’t come in all that well either. They were reporting on the initial incident at the North Tower when the second airliner flew into the South Tower live on TV; the pictures were fuzzy but there was no doubt that an airliner had just flown straight into the building. We looked at each other as if to ask “Did I just see what I think I saw?” I don’t remember everything about the rest of my shift that morning, but I do remember that it made quite an impression as I’d only been on the job for 6 months at the time. I remember how it seemed to inspire a new interest in volunteering one’s time to help others.
Apart from work, the day immediately struck me as historic. As soon as it became clear that we were being attacked and as the human cost in lives climbed with the World Trade Center collapses I equated September 11, 2001 with December 7, 1941. I knew from what I felt about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 how my Grandparents felt on December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Just as Pearl Harbor proved to us that the oceans’ expanse no longer protected us from attack at home, September 11 proved to us that we were no longer immune from the dangers of international terrorism.
As the largest group of first responders to suffer from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, the FDNY 343 are the most often remembered but we also need to remember the other first responders that perished in the line of duty that day, the EMTs and Law Enforcement Officers of the different agencies that responded and went into the towers along with FDNY. We should never forget the sacrifice of any of them. We also remember the military personnel who died in the Pentagon when it was struck by one of the hijacked airliners. While the deaths of public safety and military personnel are tragic, the most shocking deaths were those of everyday folks, the civilian workers and airline passengers who perished in the attacks. Public Safety and Military personnel took their jobs and go to work each day with the reasonable expectation that something could happen to them as a result of their chosen careers. The airline passengers and workers who died on September 11 didn’t have that same reasonable expectation. All of the deaths on September 11 were equally tragic and we can never forget any of them.
I also remember the unity we felt as a country and the respect we expressed towards each other after September 11, 2001. For as a short time, we were unified as a country because of our grief and shock. Likewise, we showed respect to each other regardless of political belief or affiliation. Of course it didn’t last long. Eventually we returned to our all or nothing political mind set. Setting aside what was best for the country, our politicians went back to doing what was best for their party and for them as individuals. Instead of treating each other with respect, liberals returned to insulting a conservative president just as we now have conservatives who insult a liberal president; neither respecting the office of the President.
It seems that’s how we are as a country, though. Historically we are a people that can’t seem to get along yet when faced with adversity we come together to get through something like a national tragedy. Therefore on this September 11, 2011 I will remember not only those who died but the good things that happened. I remember how steel workers and volunteers streamed to the World Trade Center site to help. I remember how people from various backgrounds and walks of life came together to help each other.