Thirteen years ago today, I remember dropping my kids off before I went to work with my mother. Good Morning America played in the background as I stood talking with her. We watched as the first plane hit the World Trade Center in the background and our attention immediately went to the television. I didn’t know what to think. I thought it was some kind of a prank that they were playing on us. I remember telling her “That’s a really bad joke,” and heading off to work.
The radio stations began to discuss it as I drove to work and by the time I arrived at a local car dealer that I was working at in the License and Title department, the second plane had already hit. All the employees gathered around the television and I remember the owner walking in and everyone immediately turning to run off to their desks and he said, “It’s alright. You guys stay here, this is important.” This only added to my confusion as I stood side by side with co-workers and the owner of the dealership watching as every channel focused on the events that were taking place.
I remember beginning to worry about my father who worked in downtown Chicago and excusing myself to call my mother to see if she had heard anything from him. Downtown Chicago would shut down for the most part hours later as people tried to get home to their families, the nation unsure at that point of how many of the planes that were in air and still “safe”. A third plane hit the Pentagon and all flights were grounded. America’s heart literally stopped pumping as everyone stood in shock. People remembering the things that they had forgotten to tell their loved ones before leaving the house and suddenly wanting to get in contact with them, to hold them and to cherish the seconds that they had together.
I remember feeling frightened to see the first planes over the city. I remember every channel focusing on the events that had taken place for three days straight and I remember when America finally went back to its regular broadcasts it was almost a sigh of relief. People suddenly cared. They not only cared about their own families but about others around them. They cared not only about their being but about their opinions. In weeks to come I can’t tell you how many cars that I saw driving through the city with an American Flag decal affixed to the back window. If you didn’t have one, you simply had to get one and newspapers made it easy, putting one in the Sunday paper.
While all this was taking place I felt bad because I had friends that were Middle Eastern and people weren’t looking at them the same way. Many became targets for peoples whispers and regardless of what great personalities they exhibited, strangers assumed they were much different. I am thankful for my friends strength that got them through those rough patches of time. I am thankful for the strength of so many Americans who lost loved ones, friends, colleagues. I’m also thankful for all of those who got out of the building safely, emerging into the chaotic streets that would reflect the chaos that America would feel in years to come as America began to live in fear, scared to make purchases, frightened to attend large events and in some cases afraid to leave their homes.
Thirteen years later, aside from today, how many of us remember what we were doing on 9/11? How many of us remember what we were feeling about the future of America? How many of us take the time to care about our neighbors, to encourage them, to inspire and ultimately to be there for them? I’ve been asked time and time again, what if I remember where I was or what I was doing on 9/11? Just once, I would like someone to inquire on how I was feeling on that tragic day. I won’t forget. I never will. Maybe it’s that everyone knows that we were feeling exactly the same way on 9/11/2001. Scared out of our minds and apprehensive about the future of the land that we call our home. Today in Chicago, it’s cold and gloomy, a reflection of the somber mood of the events that took place so many years ago.