Memories of 9/11
That morning I got up early for some reason and was just pouring a coffee when the phone rang…it was very early but I answered it and on the other end of the phone was my friend Viki View Petersen of Burlington, Wisconsin. Viki and I had been doing our family trees for many years and were trying to connect the two families without much luck.
On this day however, Viki was almost incomprehensible. She was crying and trying to talk but I finally got out of her to put the television on. My eyes could not take in what I was witnessing. The towers were burning and they kept flashing back to when the two planes hit the towers.
The two of us stayed on the phone for well over four hours…consoling each other, both in tears for most of our conversation. I thought about it afterwards…of all the people Viki could have phoned, she phoned her Canadian friend who was three hours behind her in time but she knew that I would have wanted her to call me so we could share the most terrible day of our lives.
As we were talking, the South Tower collapsed. By this time we were both numb from the images and the Tower coming down was devastating. We both knew at that moment that the North Tower was going to collapse too and just sat glued to our tv sets and quietly talking.
We had heard the news that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and soon after that Flight 93 crashed into an empty field….information was coming in fast and furious and was hard to take it all in. We both knew that we were witnessing a day in history that would live forever in the hearts and minds of the people of the world.
I think it is important to note that all planes were grounded and hundreds landed in the Maritimes in Canada. The people on board those planes were treated like family. A lot of them actually stayed with families while others were billeted in Ice Arenas or Community Centres. They were fed and looked after from the moment they arrived to the day they left. Life long relationships sprang up from those days of fear and anguish.
During our marathon conversation, my Dad came over because he could not reach me by phone. I told him who I was talking to and he nodded and left. As soon as Viki and I were finished with our call, I got in the car and went to Mom and Dad’s. We had dinner in front of the television and then I made my way home.
For the next month we saw nothing on television but news reports and stories about the collapse of the Towers and about who was responsible.
Sixteen years today and I think that those images are still burned into my memory. I remember seeing the firefighters as they went into the buildings. I remember seeing them carry out the body of their Chaplain Mychal Judge. When the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 am, debris went flying through the North Tower lobby, killing many inside, including Judge. At the moment he was struck in the head and killed, Judge was repeatedly praying aloud, “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”
There were hundreds and hundreds of stories of heroism and thousands of stories of people looking for their loved one. Walls of photos went up with people begging for information.
The sad part of all of it was that there were no recognizable bodies to be recovered. There were bits and pieces (fragments) that have now been carried by a caravan of ambulances and flanked by firefighters, policemen and family members to Ground Zero to be interred there along with all their names. Some of the fragments were identified and the families in question were notified. Most of the families wanted part of their loved ones to be buried at Ground Zero.
I don’t know if we have learned anything from that day. I do know that in the hours, days, weeks and months that followed, the people of the United States of America stood as one…it was a galvanizing moment for that nation. Today, however, the feelings have changed and people seem to have forgotten what that day was all about.
To my American friends and family…examine your conscience and relive for a moment the worst of your incredible history. Reach out to your fellow man regardless of the colour of his skin or his religion or his origin of birth. Join hands and become the brotherhood you were on September 11, 2001. Stand up for those whose lives were ended in the most hellish way possible. Do not let their deaths be for nothing…let them count as a turning point in your country’s history…and remember always the Pledge you take wholeheartedly.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”