Our intern, Rachel Senkler, reflects upon the shared American experience on September 11, 2001.
There are moments in your life where you remember every second as if frozen in time. As a nation, I believe we experienced this moment on September 11, 2001—a moment indelible to our collective memory as the United States of America. For me, that day started as an ordinary day at school, and then in between classes during the morning something happened. Everyone was crowded around computers and television screens. I asked an upperclassman what was happening and she said a plane hit one of the twin towers in New York City. I remember rushing to the library to closest TV available and watching with horror and dread as a second plane crashed into the other tower. I froze. I recall the loudspeaker going off after sometime urging people to return to their classes, but for the first time in my life I didn’t listen to the rules. I skipped my classes as did most of the other students, paralyzed by the fear of what was happening. I think many people across the nation were tormented by that persistent voice asking “are we next?”
I watched as the pentagon was hit. I watched the newscasters fumble as they tried to predict the reason and the perpetrators of the attack for hours on end. I watched the president speak. I watched people jump off buildings as they tried to avoid a fiery death. I watched a city implode with ashes and smoke. I watched and watched as I all I could do was witness history take place and feel fear spread across the nation and across the world.
Our local priest happened to be conducting some ministry work in New York City during the attack, and so I was able to see another side of the story. While the rest of the nation remained fearful, the face of New York changed. I will never forget as our priest recalled his experiences at one of the emergency centers as he tried to help an elderly Jewish lady return home. A Hispanic man had pulled up in a car, and as my priest asked for his help, the lady replied “He’s Hispanic—I don’t trust him, he could hurt me”, and the man said “Lady, today our city is burning. I’m not going to hurt you. Get in the car.” He took her safely home as the twin towers of New York City burned to the ground. Moments like this happened all over New York that day. Prejudices were left behind as people bonded to overcome one of the most terrible tragedies our country has ever faced.
After September 11, it was astounding how many people knew someone affected by the attack. 3,000 men, women and children died that day. I lived in Ohio, but I talked to countless people who had friends, cousins, brothers, sisters who died or knew someone who lost a loved one during those attacks. My father lost a close friend from the navy who worked at the pentagon. I knew his wife and children—and there are countless others whose lives will never be the same.
As a nation, we have tried to move on, but we also want to remember. In the footprints of the twin towers lies a memorial dedicated to all of the victims of 9/11. There will be a live webcast of the ceremony on-site at 8:30 AM EST at the memorial’s website http://www.911memorial.org/. I urge you to take a moment and remember with us as we grieve and honor the memory of those we have lost.
Images courtesy of <worldpittsburgh.wordpress.com> and <msnbc.msn.com>.