Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflecting on 10 Years Since 9/11

I write this personal reflection piece as something I hope my kids will someday read and re-read so they, like me, will never forget the sacrifices made on September 11, 2001 and afterwards to preserve our way of life and our freedoms.  Never forget.

I was at work in the building that housed the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce in downtown Steubenville, Ohio.  It was before 9 a.m. when the television in the Chamber's boardroom captured my attention for the next few hours after word came of a plane hitting the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

I, almost immediately, remembered my college roommate telling me about a piece of a plane that his late grandfather collected from a crash into the Empire State Building.  His grandpa was a cop in New York City and reported to the scene.  So, yes, I thought, planes can hit buildings in New York City, on foggy days.

I didn't have to wrestle for very long with the fact rolling through my mind that it was clear blue skies in New York that day.  The second plane hit while I was watching one of the newscasts I kept scrolling through.  Clearly, this was an attack!

I remembered the time my family visited the top story of the World Trade Center.  It was the day after Thanksgiving in November 2000 when we took the elevator in the South Tower to the 107th floor and the Top of the World.  It was my third trip to the World Trade Centers, but first time to the top of the South Tower.

It was too cold to go outside (I don't remember even being offered the option), but the view was breathtaking.  The above photo of the group of seven of us include my wife and daughter, my parents, and my brother and his wife.  My brother made a video too.  I couldn't help but think of all these things. 

Even before the anchor said it, I could see that one of the towers was collapsing.

Of all the stories that day, it was Father Mychal Judge's that was going through my head the most.  NYFD Chaplain and Franciscan priest, Judge was with NYC Mayor Rudy Guilianni at the base of the World Trade Center.  He went inside the North Tower when the South Tower collapsed and was killed by falling debris.

After the second tower collapsed, the FAA shut down all air traffic.

I remember hearing a plane fly near downtown Steubenville.  At that moment, it didn't strike me to equate the fact that jets were grounded and, yet, I had just heard a jet engine.  I'll never know, but some depictions of the flight path for Flight 93 show it crossing not far from Steubenville.  It's possible I heard that plane.  I suspect I did.

The Pentagon would get struck.  Flight 93 would crash in Western PA near Somerset.  The World would never be the same.

Before she left for school earlier that day, my daughter had laid out clothes for her after-school figure skating lesson. Her sweatshirt from the New York City trip was laid out, the one with the World Trade Center buildings depicted on it.

All kinds of reports came in from a variety of sources. Buildings in nearby Pittsburgh had been evacuated. Even as far away as Ohio, we would all learn that we know someone who knew someone who perished.

I learned something else later that day.  Understandably, plans for a public announcement of the Walmart decision to buid a new food distribution center outside of Steubenville would be delayed.  Originally planned for the Jefferson County Commissioners' meeting on Thursday, September 13, the announcement of Wal-Mart's decision to bring 600 jobs to Steubenville would have to wait two more weeks.  When word did come out, the news made national headlines and regionally and gave people something good to think about for a change.

I will never forget September 11, 2001.  I hope my kids, three of whom where not yet born on that date, never forget either.

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