Good morning Everyone!
11 years ago today, I was preparing to take two depositions that I had been trying to schedule for months in Birmingham, Alabama on a relatively small case. I had some time before I had to leave, since they didn’t start until 12 or 1, so was reviewing some notes when Terri, my assistant at the time (back when I had an assistant), came in and said, “Hey, the World Trade Center’s on fire.” I didn’t understand what she meant, so I asked and she told me that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.
I remember a sort of “that’s too bad” feeling, the kind you get when a plane crashes anywhere, saying a quick prayer for the victims and wondering how on earth a plane could get that far off course before loading my stuff up and heading out for the depositions.
We got both of them done, and on my way home I stopped at a Birmingham mall to buy some make-up. When I stopped, I was surprised to see that many of the stores were already closed at 3 in the afternoon, and the rest of them were closing at 6. I decided then I needed to call Mark (who, due to his father’s death and the winding up of the family business had been between jobs and able to watch the news all day) to find out what was going on. I had a bag phone then, and you didn’t use them as casually as we use cell phones now.
I told Mark about the stores’ closing and how surprised I was, and that’s when Mark said, “I don’t think you realize how big this really is.” That’s when I learned for the first time about the second plane, the towers falling, the Pentagon crash and the field in Pennsylvania. When I got home that night, I was stunned as I watched the footage of the planes crashing into the towers and the Pentagon and horrified as I watched the Towers crumble into themselves in a cloud of toxic dust. I was shocked and grieved by the senseless loss of life.
I remember watching the Memorial Service a few days later at the National Cathedral. I watched our nation’s leaders file into the church for the ceremony. Leaders from both parties. Political opponents who, for at least one brief moment, remembered that they were Americans first. I watched as then-President Bush got up to speak that day, and noticed that there was not one face in the audience at the Cathedral that envied him being in that position on that day.
For a few weeks, we were all Americans first and everything else second. Family and God suddenly seemed a lot more important than it had before September 11 and a nation grieved with the victims and their family.
11 years later, September 11, 2001 has changed our nation and many families in ways too profound to comprehend, from the very littlest of items, like the fact that my daughter will never know the feeling of watching breathlessly at the arrival gate for your grandparents to get off the plane as the passengers come down the gangplank, to those irreplaceable losses that leave aching, unfillable holes, like the death of a loved one.
I wish September 11, 2001 had not happened. The costs of that day are still too high and too hard to bear. A very small part of me, though, wishes that, without the same cost, we as a nation could find ourselves back in that place where we are all Americans first, everything else second. This feeling doesn’t mean that we all have to agree on everything all the time, or even most of the time. It just means that, at the end of the day, we realize that those things that connect us are far stronger than the things that drive us apart.
And my last thought last night before I went to sleep? One more prayer that, at least for today, we remain safe and whole once more.