I debated whether to make a post on this tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks before deciding to add my own reminiscing about that the morning to the general outpouring of reflection and remembrances across the internet. I spent some time earlier today doing much the same thing with a small gathering of friends and colleagues that were together that morning and the remainder of the day (and coming weeks) watching from distant Phoenix, AZ what was happening in the East Coast. Sadly some of those friends and colleagues were no longer with us and others unable to attend due to their duties with the military.
The morning of September 11, 2001 was especially notable as I prepared to leave for college for an early morning chemistry lab class. The sky was clear and the sun shining as you would expect in the Valley of the Sun for this time of year. It wasn’t a particularly warm day though we hadn’t fully shaken of the heat of an Arizona summer for the cooler temperatures of the Fall. As was my usual morning routine of the time I was eating breakfast and watching the news with my brother: first the local channels and then switching to one of the cable networks (CNN, MSNBC, and Fox) which I typically cycled through. That morning we just happened to settle on Fox. Around twenty to thirty minutes later, word of the first tower being hit came through, followed after that with footage and undeniable proof of what was happening.
I eventually left for class and was admittedly surprised how many of the students showed up. Many were upset and worried (especially after a false rumor that the White House had been hit) but still there, none the less. Our class actually did the experiment that was planned for the day, and I’d dare say it was the fastest I’d ever seen the entire class work as most were done within twenty minutes and allowed to leave. Several of us shared the next class together, a macroeconomics class (later cancelled by the professor), that was in a room with access to cable news where we watched in disbelief for hours on end. Several of my friends who were from New York couldn’t watch after the towers were gone, concerned about family in friends in and around what would become Ground Zero. One, as we found out days later, had lost a cousin who died doing his job with the FDNY. I remember he and I, being older than the other students and having grown up with the World Trade Center being a signature part of the New York City skyline, just shaking our heads commenting how it no longer looked like New York. Nothing would be the same again.
And it wasn’t. The nation changed, people changed. Some for the better, some for the worse. Only a few classmates, friends, and colleagues carried on with the plans they had set out for themselves in their lives. Many more changed as they used 9/11 to reassess their lives and their values. Several classmates were called back in to service, others left to join the military service in order to help protect the homeland. Some changed careers to become fireman, police, doctors, nurses, and EMTs. One young man I knew decided to become a priest because he felt the world needed people preaching peace and tolerance and love after such an act of hatred and evil. I decided to settle on becoming an engineer, one of three choices I had been waffling on for the past semester. I didn’t become a civil or structural engineer as I had originally thought I would, but eventually went on to become an aerospace engineer. The friend who lost his cousin went on to become a fireman.
So that is my brief remembrance and thought on that day, an ordinary day that became so extraordinary. As I do every year on this day, I light a candle for those lost and for those seeking to leave the darkness behind. And I also try to remember that everyday, no matter how mundane it seems, that it should be treated for what it, and the people in our lives, are – extraordinary.
I hope someday to be able to visit New York City once more and pay my respects at the September 11 Memorial but until then I’ll continue to light a candle every year and remember.