Remembering that terrible day in September

Published 7:14 pm Thursday, September 10, 2009

I wasn’t working on that fateful day eight years ago, and our home was in the midst of renovations, so I was staying out the way of the plumbers at work in the kitchen and bathroom.

As I sat in front of my computer, surfing various news sites in the Internet, I noticed an unusual headline about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. The text of the story that was linked to the headline had little more information to offer, so I moved into the living room to see what I could find on the cable news networks. I recall saying a quick prayer for the pilot of what I figured must have been a small plane that had strayed off course and into one of the high towers.

As soon as I turned on the news channel, however, I saw I’d been wrong, as the video showed a huge gash in the side of the North Tower and black smoke billowing into the sky.

As he passed through the living room to get tools from their van, one of the plumbers glanced at the television and asked what was up.

“An airplane crashed into the World Trade Center,” I said.

The world had changed, but I hadn’t caught up to it yet. All of America — and, in fact, the world — would begin to catch up during the next several hours as we watched fires burn out of control, saw a second plane slicing into the South Tower, saw the smoke hanging over the Pentagon following the attack there and then watched in horror as the two World Trade Center buildings collapsed, one after the other.

In the midst of it all, I called friends in New York and Washington, D.C. to check on their safety. For my friend at the capital, I left a tearful message begging him to get out of the office and go home. I had no way to know he’d already left and was walking out of the city as I spoke to his voicemail.

My plumbers continued their work as I sat on the couch, gripped by the spectacle before me and aghast at the thought of what was going on inside the burning buildings. Later, I picked up lunch for the folks in the office where I worked. The restaurant had plenty of customers that day, but it was eerily quiet as they waited for their food, eyes transfixed on the images appearing on the television there.

Eight years later, Americans hardly see those images anymore, which is understandable in that they still have such an emotional impact on us. Still, though, the man behind al Qaeda remains on the run — somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan, probably — and our nation’s resolve to find him and remove the evidence of his influence on Afghanistan seems to have waned.

Perhaps this eighth anniversary of that terrible day in September 2001 is an appropriate time for us to recall those images and to renew our resolve to never forget and to visit justice on the guilty.