Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The horrific events that transpired on September 11, 2001, have forever changed the face of America. Like many of you, I awoke on September 11th thinking about everything I had to accomplish that day. As a 20-year-old college student, I was busy with the tasks at hand. The papers, homework and journalism writing assignments were going to keep me very busy on this Tuesday morning. I rolled out of bed at around 6 a.m. and put on my workout clothes, thinking to myself that the sooner I got done working out, the sooner I could get the other items crossed off my check-off list. Little did I know how much my life would change--how much America would change in a matter of minutes. As I sat on the bed and put on my running shoes, I turned on the Today Show and I immediately stopped what I was doing because of what I was witnessing on the screen in front of me. The normally clear, crystal blue New York skyline was smoky, hazy and just plain eerie. I immediately listened as Matt and Katie reported what was going on. At first it was reported that a small commuter plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. After hearing this, I thought to myself: "oh, okay some pilot either ran out of gas or had a mechanical failure, hopefully everything will be okay." After hearing this, I went for a quick run.
When I got home, I turned the television back on assuming that whatever had transpired before I left had been figured out and that everything would be all right. Instead, what I saw on television really scared me. It was being reported that it wasn't a commuter plane after all, but a large plane. People were shown running down the street, dazed and confused in their business attire. I will never forget the horrific looks of those poor people's faces. These were successful, hard-working Americans who now seemed to be fleeing to safety. These traders, executives, secretaries, maintenance workers and many more business professionals became a blur under the smokey haze and ash that covered everything in sight. Immediately I thought, is this a terrorist attack? Being the journalism student I was, I didn't want to jump to conclusions, and I hoped I was wrong, but everything I was watching seemed to be pointing in that direction.
Unfortunately all my premonitions were indeed true, as I saw an object hit the other tower. When people talk about reality television, usually the actions are staged, but this was true a reality show, a frightening series of events that I could not believe were really happening. I kept hoping that everything I was seeing unfold was just a bad dream. I wanted to put my flannel pj's back on and climb back into bed and cuddle up thinking that when I awoke everything would be normal again-- everything would be the same. Yet, this WAS really happening; this WAS reality. Right them and there, I knew America had been attacked. How could this happen to America? I asked myself. Now, I can see one fluke accident, but the second plane hitting the other tower was just a little too coincidental. After the second tower was hit, everything just happened so fast that it is hard to put it all in chronological order because I was just trying to wrapped my head around how someone could attack America, the land of the free, the home of the brave. Before this day, I had always felt safe and secure. I never worried about going to amusement parks or sporting events. The only thing that scared me when I had to fly was my fear of heights, but that didn't stop me from flying. After watching the event unfold before my eyes, the care-free America I had once known seemed an all too distant memory.
The catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, not only changed America as we knew her, but also us as individuals. Before the tragic events of 9/11, I took for granted my family and friends. I took for granted the little things that I now look at with intense pride. While I have always loved America and took pride in being an American, September 11th made me realize how proud I was to be an American, and I wanted to show this pride everywhere I went. From the ashes, people came to the aide of others. Strangers helping strangers, putting their lives on the line to protect their fellow man and fellow woman. Amid the tears, heartache and screams of anger came a bright beacon of light, and amid the ashes, people joined together and united as one. I was so proud of our brave men and women in uniform who risked their lives as they rushed into those burning buildings, knowing that they may not make it out alive. I was so proud of the normal Americans too. The employees who refused to evacuate the buildings of the World Trade Center, opting instead to stay inside and go back up those floors to try to get others out. Those brave men and women at the Pentagon who came together to bring out the burned and wounded. Whatever you may think of Donald Rumsfeld, he will forever be a hero for rushing in to help and rescue others. Who could forget the brave men and women of Flight 93? As I write this, I have tears in my eyes, as I think of the sacrifice those amazing individuals made in protecting those on the ground. I cannot begin to imagine what they must have gone through. But in true American form and with tremendous composer, they did what few would do.
You see, fellow readers, while the events of September 11th will forever be hard to comprehend and digest, this day brought out the best in our fellow man. Men, women and children of all races and religions came together for a common purpose, a common goal of helping those in need. I'll never forget when our elected officials stood together, hand in hand and sang God Bless America with more emotion than I had ever seen from from those whom we elect to serve. After a tumultuous election, all Americans, regardless of party, stood together behind President George W. Bush as he comforted and hugged the hurting and the suffering. Goodness, how the times have changed. I have to ask, "What the hell happened?" "What happened to us?" We came together after an event of tragic proportions only to become divided once more. While it is clear President Obama and Mitt Romney have two very different visions for America this election year, it is vital we realize that we are Americans first before we are Republicans or Democrats or Independents.
There are many individuals who want us to forget about what happened on 9/11-- But, readers, whatever you do, it is important that you NEVER FORGET! NEVER FORGET the people who risked their lives to save their fellow man! NEVER FORGET the way America came together! NEVER FORGET the sacrifices so many men and women in uniform are making for us as they risk their lives day in and day out just so we never have to relive the tragic events that happened on that day. NEVER FORGET what happened on 9/11 and the way the nation came together on 9/12 because now more than ever, we NEED to be reminded that America is the land of freedom and opportunity, the land of the brave. NEVER FORGET the 2,974 innocent individuals who lost their lives.
Take some time today to reflect on your own life and what 9/11 means to you. Say a prayer for the families of the victims of the attacks, for our soldiers and for the families of the fallen men and women who died protecting us. And tomorrow on 9/12, don't forget! It is important to WAKE UP, to STAND UP, and to SPEAK UP because we love our country and are worried about the direction we are headed. Don't be afraid, don't listen to the critics! In returning to the way in which we behaved and acted on 9/12/2001, there is no doubting the power and freedom we have when we stand on the side of our founding fathers, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. When we stand together, there is no way they can divide us; thus, the famous line goes: "UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL!"
(Follow me on Twitter @RachelleFriberg.)