I had originally intended not to post anything today, as it should be a solemn day for reflection. After thinking back to that time, which I remember so clearly like it was yesterday, I decided to go ahead and post.
On that tragic day, I remember being in bed, and Jerry coming in and shaking me to wake me up, telling me, “Terrorists just blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon!” Still not fully awake, it was almost as if it were a terrible dream. After a second or two, I realized I was not dreaming. This was real. Aside from “bag drags” and deployment drills when I was in the military, I had never gotten out of bed so quickly before.
Jerry woke up to the phone ringing that morning; it was his dad calling to tell him about the events. He, in turn, woke me up. We sat on the sofa in the living room, just staring at the TV, trying to comprehend all that was happening. As we found out that the landmarks had not been “blown up” in the traditional manner, but airplanes had crashed into them, it was even more bothersome. Not only were lives lost in the buildings, but all those lives on the planes were gone.
People lost their spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, the list goes on and on. Just the thought of how many peoples’ lives were being forever changed by this tragedy made me nauseated. Although I’d had a late night and was very tired, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. Jerry had gone to work and wouldn’t be home until early evening, so it was just me and the TV. All I could do was keep watching .
Finally, needing to get out of the house to preserve what little sanity was left in my mind, I went to Beaudion’s Pizza (now Peggy’s Homemade Pizza). This was a local, family-owned restaurant with a small bar area. A group of us often met there in the afternoons to watch Jeopardy. I wasn’t the only one who needed to get out; all the other regulars had started trickling in, too. Although we didn’t say much, it was oddly comforting to be watching the news in the presence of friends rather than by myself.
I also remember, very vividly, seeing images of American flags on rows of houses on TV. Instead of just “taking it,” Americans fought back. Terrorists wanted change, they got it. We all came together and showed them what it meant to be the United States of America. They did not win, after all. This is why I decided to go ahead and post.
After those events, I was more proud than ever to be a United States citizen and a veteran. Later on, as terrorism became even more prevalent, I went back to school and got a degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. I worked as a Deputy Coroner and Chief Death Investigator until I finished graduate school and started a non-profit. Just like the Twin Towers memorial, we need to keep reminding ourselves that when faced with adversity and challenges, it is possible to emerge even stronger and better than before.
*Department of Defense photo, public domain