9/11/2001 – It was a typical morning at the office when seconds past 8:46 a.m. I heard my co-worker, Suzanne, ask aloud – “What did you just say?” Liz was the only one of us who kept a radio playing in her office. I heard her reply, “A plane just hit one of the World Trade Center towers.” Suzanne and I both jumped up and went to Liz’s office to hear more. And to speculate on what might have caused such an accident. As many people probably did, we thought it was nothing more than a terrible mishap. Little did we know what was about to unfold before us.
Suzanne and I both went back into our offices. At 9:03 a.m. we hear Liz yell, “Another plane just hit the south tower of the World Trade Center!” After that, more than a few of us crowded into Liz’s office to hear the reports on the radio. Suzanne exclaimed suddenly, “Oh my dear God, my friend works at the World Trade Center.” She ran to her office to call her. No answer. After several failed attempts, she called her home number praying that she was at home. No answer. Once again, we all returned to our offices realizing that something was very, very wrong.
Around 9:30 a.m. Liz announced that a plane had been hijacked. Just minutes later, at 9:38 a.m., Flight 77 crashed into The Pentagon. After the crash into The Pentagon, most of the office crammed into a small conference room that happened to have a television. Moments later, our Director told us to move into the larger conference room where he’d set up the larger TV.
While we were making our way to the larger conference room, Suzanne’s cell phone rang. It was her friend from New York, the one who worked at the WTC. With a wild mix of emotions, I heard Suzanne almost scream, “where have you been?!” It seems that her friend, who was habitually late for work, had once again overslept. This time it saved her life. She had no idea what had happened; she had missed it all.
Once in the conference room we all sat watching the events unfold, the speculation of what had happened and who was behind this tragic series of events. As we were watching the reports, we witnessed the collapse of the south tower just before 10:00 a.m. Words can’t accurately portray the emotions of everyone in that room. What I remember clearly is that Suzanne and I sat with our arms around each other, crying openly.
Ten minutes later, at 10:10 a.m., we learned that Flight 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania. Not even twenty minutes later, at 10:28 a.m., we watched in horror as the north tower collapsed.
Our world had indeed changed forever.
I don’t recall exactly when we began to see the reaction from around the world, but equal to the horror of the day, were the images from across the world of celebrations. Celebrations by those who want nothing more than to see the United States of America completely dismantled. Celebrations by the barbarians who want nothing more than to return the earth’s population back to their primitive way of life. It brought to mind a conversation I’d had in 1999 with an Officer in the British Royal Marines. I’d asked him pointedly what he thought of Middle Easterners. He’d said without hesitation, “I know it’s probably not a politically correct answer, but I don’t trust them. They will smile to your face and shake your hand while thrusting a knife in your back with the other hand.”
As I’ve watched those events unfold again and again every September 11 for the past ten years I have waited for the absolute repudiation of those events from those who practice Islam. I can count on one hand those Muslims who have stepped forward publicly to call out their Muslim brothers who seek to destroy the world, not only the Western world, but even other Muslims.
The naivety I had prior to 9/11/2001 has been replaced with a sense of patriotism and awareness that I did not have before, and for that, I am grateful. But, for the loss of life and loss of freedom both on that day, before that day, and since that day, I stand strong in my outrage towards those who perpetrate these gross acts of terror against America. There are some acts that can neither be forgiven or forgotten.