Ten years. For many, the images remain as vivid as they were on that horrible day, September 11, 2001. Each person has their own story of where they were when the first and second planes hit the World Trade Center building, when United Airlines Flight 93 went down in a field in Pennsylvania, and when the fourth plane crashed into the Pentagon. It has become the “Where were you when JFK was shot?” question for this generation.
In previous years, my husband and I talked to our two boys about 9-11, giving them the basic facts. This year, on the 10th anniversary, it felt right to sit them down and tell the full story.
That morning, a decade ago, my husband and I were driving in his car, on the way to our office. We were days away from the birth of our first son and were filled with excitement and anticipation. The radio dial was set to 90.1, National Public Radio, and we listened to snippets of the news in between our conversation. When we first heard the announcers speak about an attack on the World Trade Center, I thought they were referring to the truck bomb that exploded beneath the north tower in early 1993. Then the announcers mentioned a plane and we turned up the volume. We listened in horror at the description of smoke billowing from the north tower. Before we reached the office, the second plane crashed into the south tower and it became clear that New York and, indeed, the whole country was under attack.
Through gulps of tears, I told our boys how the disbelief set in as we listened to the fate of American Airlines Flight 77 as it flew into the Pentagon, and of the bravery of those passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who managed to divert the flight and save lives other than their own. I told them how, when we lived in Manhattan, we would take the subway into the World Trade Center several times each week to work with clients in Battery Park and how we enjoyed a special meal at Windows on the World, atop the North Tower. We now wonder if some of the people we passed each day were in those towers 10 years ago.
The boys watched me, wide-eyed, as I told this tale. Their reaction, I think, had as much to do with the story I told as the surprise at seeing me dissolve into tears after every few sentences. It wasn’t the time to hide emotions. Rather, it was important for them to know how we felt on that day and why it is so important to remember the nearly 3000 people that died, mostly from the United States, but also from numerous countries around the world.
I wanted my boys to understand not only the shock and sadness felt by many people around the world, but also the moving display of patriotism displayed by citizens of the United States and support from around the globe. Amidst all of the tragedy, there was a silver lining. We pulled together, we grieved together, we did these things…together, setting aside differences.
Every year since 2001, our city in Utah pulls together a tribute to the victims of 9-11, called The Healing Fields. In a large open field across from city hall, American flags are stuck into the ground, row upon row, one flag for every victim. The flags are organized into sections – World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Flight 93, and so on. The sheer number of flags is overwhelming. Walking through the rows, we soon realized that each flag bore a tag with an inscription. An inscription that reminded us that each one of those people was a real person, with dreams, with stories…with loved ones left behind.
Inscription reads: In memory of Lt. Charles William Garbarini, Age 44, World Trade Center. Lieutenant Charles Garbarini was a firefighter with Division 3, Battalion 9. He was a father of two.
Inscription reads: In memory of Thomas Gambino, Age 48, World Trade Center. Thomas Gambino, of Babylon, New York, was a firefighter with the New York Fire Department.
Today is a day of remembrance. We remember those who died. We remember those left behind. We remember to be more understanding of others. We remember to embrace those we love.
My friend Marla of Family Fresh Cooking is encouraging us to Bake to Remember. Be sure to check out her tribute and join in on the tribute if you wish.