18 years. 18 years? How? I know its easy to say “it feels like yesterday” but honestly… It does. I remember the beautiful deep blue sky that day… Just the perfect September day.
I grew up in central New Jersey, about 45 minutes from the city. Even though we lived halfway between NYC and Philly… NY was always our city. We went to the city every Christmas… Yankee games were a regular thing. (In fact we were there for a game on September 9th.)
I was a freshman in high school and will never forget that day. We were waiting for the morning announcements and the news was on showing one of the towers on fire. The headline said “Plane hits World Trade Center.”
Us, being teenagers made a joke thinking it was a small plane. “What kind of idiot fly’s a plane into a building?!” After the news flipped off and the announcements were over we all went to our next class. And I could immediately see on my teacher’s face… Something was not right.
“Another plane flew into the towers… This wasn’t an accident.” My heart sank and I felt confused, sad and angry all at the same time. My teacher asked if we wanted to have class or watch the news. No one flinched… “News.”
Every class that day we watched. We watched the smoke billow and the towers fall. Every few minutes the phone would ring and kids were being called down to the main office.
You see we lived so close to NY that many parents and loved ones worked in the city. And, this was before the boom of cell phones, only a few kids had one (me not being one) so there was no instant communication.
We lived on a big hill and when I got home that day I could see the cloud of smoke coming from Ground Zero. I immediately called my parents from our home phone just to hear their voices.
For those that know me this will come as no surprise. I grabbed our American flag, hopped on my bike and rode the neighborhood with my friends chanting USA USA USA.
That night I sat on our front porch looking to the sky and realizing how quiet it was. No planes. Nothing moving around up there. And right then I realized the magnitude of the situation, and how far this tragedy was reaching.
The days and weeks after the attacks was the saddest but most unified I have ever felt in my life. You couldn’t turn your head without seeing a flag. People didn’t just walk passed each other… They said hello. And to this day it makes me sad to think that THAT DAY is what we needed to come together like that.
And how quickly we forget. Today everyone will write NEVER FORGET and it’s amazing. But, how about we never forget every day, not just once a year. Say hello to people, be kind to others, have pride in being American.
That day ripped families apart. Took mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends away. We need to honor them every day by helping our country come back together and stop drifting apart.
Lastly… Like every boy growing up I always wanted to be a fireman or a policeman. But then never had the guts to actually do it when I grew up. That day the FDNY lost 343 of their own.
I always thought I knew about the sacrifice they made and how hard a firefighter’s job is. But until I met my brother in law Mike, who is a current FDNY member… I realized I didn’t know anything at all.
Thank you Mike, and thank you to every single other firefighter, police officer, EMT and military personnel. Not just today but everyday. What you do every single day astounds me and the appreciation will forever run deep.
9/11 is the worst day in my history of being alive. But a day that must forever be talked about and taught about. I don’t know how my wife and I will ever be able to explain it to our future kids. But it’s our job, and everyone’s job to do so…
So the memory of everyone who lost their life that day will forever live on.