This is a few days late, but we have recently celebrated (not really the best word to explain the acknowledgement of) the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. The attack on this country has become one of those days that people ask "Where were you when you heard about the plane hitting the Twin Towers?"
I was 18 years old, and a college freshman. I was still dating my high school sweetheart. There was no such thing as ipods, facebook, or twitter. The NY Giants had just won a great football game the night before. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I was going to community college at the time so I was still living at home. I was getting ready for my second week of school when my father called into the bathroom to tell me a plane hit the Twin Towers. At the time we thought it was a small private plane. We really believed it was just an accident. So even though it was breaking news, I finished getting ready and left for class. By time I reached Ocean County College, the second tower was hit and the first tower fell. I was in shock listening to all of this on the radio. I was literally hearing the play by play on the radio. We were all trying to figure out what the hell was going on together. The newscasters did not know, and I sure as hell didn't know what was happening to our country, but it was pretty clear that this was not an accident. Needless to say I didn't go in to class. I did find out later all classes were cancelled anyway. Living only an hour outside of NYC, many people were directly impacted by this event. Life pretty much shut down for a few days to give people a chance to be with their families. At this time I stopped at a Dunkin Doughnuts to get a coffee and to do what everyone else was doing, call family members to let them know I was okay. At this time I was going up to NYC every Monday and Wednesday to take dance classes, Tuesday and Thursday I had college class. Many family members, especially my grandmother, were panicking that I was in the city that day for dance class. My brother and sister were currently in 7th and 12th grade so I knew they were in school and both my mom and dad were working. We all pretty much agreed we would go straight home at the end of the day. My grandmother cryed in relief when I called her to say I was not in the city that day.
While at Dunkin Doughnuts, I met a much older man. He was probably in his late 70's. He was very nervously sipping on his coffee next to me and somehow we struck up a conversation. It turns out he had recently moved to Toms River from north Jersey. His wife had passed away and his youngest son had moved across the country and lost touch with him. The only family member he still had in his life was his oldest son and daughter in law- and they both worked at the World Trade Center. He was just waiting... waiting to here if they were alive. I had no idea what to do to help this man, so I just stayed and sat with him. We talked for a long time. He told me stories about his kids and his wife, and he told me how proud he was of his son for getting some big NYC job. After about an hour of talking with him I had to leave. When I left, he still had not heard from his son. I still don't know if they made it out of the towers alive or not. I was overcome with sadness that this sweet old man might have lost the only family he had in this terror attack. Like many people, he was suffering more than I can understand. It was an awful day.
As the 10 year anniversary came around I couldn't help but think about that man and wonder what happened. I watched the reading of the names on TV and saw those young kids read the names of their parents that they barely got the chance to meet. The sadness associated with that day was a strong as ever. But I also remembered the sense of pride I felt to be an American after that day. I remember seeing all of the flags flying high for weeks to come and the patriotic songs playing on the radio. I do remember how we came together as a country instead of fighting against each other. I never want our country to go through that kind of suffering again, but I wouldn't mind returning to that place of unity we had as a country.