There are certain dates in our collective consciousness that are indelible in our minds. It seems like each generation has a transcendent event that marks their generation:
- For my grandparents, it was October 29, 1929 -- The stock market crash -- followed by the great depression.
- For my parents it was December 7th, 1941 -- The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
- For my generation it was November 22, 1963 – The assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
- More recently, September 11, 2001 is now seared into our collective minds – The day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people died that day.
I remember that I was getting ready for work on that morning – September 11, 2001. As usual I was listening to the radio – Station KSL in Salt Lake City on that day – when I heard an initial report that a small plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers, and that a couple of floors of the building were involved in fire. At first it was not understood that the airplane was really jet airliner.
I didn’t think much of it at first. Probably just an unfortunate case of pilot error. There would, sadly, be some casualties -- but surely nothing that they would not be able to get under control. I saw no reason to panic, or any immediate inkling that this would even become a terribly significant event.
Then the second tower was hit. This time it was plainly seen by all that it was an airliner, and not a small plane. It also became apparent that this was no accident – it was a deliberate attack.
At that point in time, I left the bathroom radio. I turned on the TV in our bedroom and tuned in to CNN. Everyone else was still asleep in the house. I usually don’t turn on the TV because I don’t want to disturb everyone else. However, on this day, I made an exception, as I explained the situation as I best understood it to my wife, who was just waking up.
As the TV came on, I saw an image both twin towers on fire. Then the unthinkable happened, the first tower collapsed. There was panic in the streets as people were fleeing from the scene of dust, debris, and death.
By this time, the rest of the family had gathered around the TV. A few minutes later, the other tower also collapsed.
My son, Bryan was 8 years old at the time. In his innocence, when he saw the building go down, he said: “COOL!” He had thought it was just another garden-variety building implosion that we have all seen on TV countless times before.
Of course, the difference this time, was that thousands of people were dying as those towers collapsed. I gently had to explain to him that this was not a planned demolition, and that people had been hurt when those buildings came down.
Numbly, I went into work that day. I have to admit that I didn’t get much done that day. Mostly I sat in stunned silence, as I listened to the radio coverage on KSL.
I remember listening to Doug Wright on KSL throughout the day. KSL had just begun carrying the newly syndicated Sean Hannity show the day before, on September 10th. I remember hearing Sean’s coverage from a New York City perspective. In addition to Doug Wright and Sean Hannity, KSL also carried audio from CNN and from local New York and Washington, DC TV and radio stations.
I remember the eerie quietness of the skies for the next three days, as all air traffic was ground to a halt.
My mother-in-law was undergoing hip replacement surgery at the University of Utah Medical Center, as the terrorist attacks took place. She went into surgery with our nation at peace, and came out of anesthesia to a nation at war.
Now, six years later, we can see how much our world has changed since the day of those attacks. We have been involved in war ever since. We likely will be for some time to come – regardless of what happens with our involvement in Iraq. If it is not Afghanistan, or Iraq, it will be somewhere else. Regrettably, I’m afraid that it will inevitably return to our own soil one day.
On this sixth anniversary, I wish to remember those who died that day. I also wish to remember the soldiers, sailors, and marines who have died, and been injured defending our freedoms ever since.