That typical, normal day that began like any other ended in a mass of confusion, terror and heart-wrenching pain. It was no longer a day that would soon be forgotten because nothing significant had occurred. It was a day that would change us all. A day that would remind us to hug our loved ones a little bit harder, and never take life for granted.
I didn't lose anyone on September 11, 2001. My loss would come in the months and years after that horrible day. And that day came swiftly. We all knew it would. We knew what our parents, and brothers and sisters did for a living. Hours after the attacks we sat around, speculating on how long it would be before they left. Hours turned into days. Days of not knowing when the shoe would drop.
We silently held hands and cried. We talked to the guidance counselors who watched us and carefully tried to prepare us for what was to come. We went to all the FRG meetings. We spent as much time with our families as we could. We silently cracked open the door and listened as our parents whispered in the dead of the night. We prayed hard. And then that day came.
A lot of kids were absent that day. That's how we knew. In a military community it was common knowledge which units each others parents belonged to. Those few of us who showed up to school knew it wouldn't be much longer until we were saying our own goodbyes. I was one of the lucky ones.
We all tried to continue on with our lives as if we weren't terrified. As if it wasn't odd that our mothers jumped every time the phone rang. For a while things seemed okay. I guess that's what people refer to as the quiet before the storm.
Then the stories began to pour in. Someone's father had been injured in a IED blast. Someone's friend had been shot. Then the day came when we showed up at school and only the sound of sobs could be heard over the desolate silence. We mourned one of our own that day. We wondered how someone could hate us so much.
The months turned into years. The "God Bless Our Troops" flags no longer hung from the poles. People no longer ran up to our fathers, mothers, brother and sisters and tearfully thanked them for their service. People forgot. We didn't have that luxury. We waited. We prayed. We hoped. We still do.
On September 11th 2001 nearly 3,000 people died. Thousands more died in the years following. Our brothers, our best friends, our fathers who had promised to see us when they returned. Gone. Sometimes it's so difficult to process. It's hard to remember what life was like before that day.
I'm not sure what I'll tell my daughter when she asks about that day. When she asks why this happened. I don't know yet. But for now the only thing that comes to mind is what Joe Gandelman once said " We will never forget September 11th. And neither will the future generations. The story, images and human cost will always conjure up horror and tears but will also be forever identified with stories of incredible bravery, determination, and personal sacrifice."
Let us never forget those who perished on that fateful day, and in the years that followed. God bless the firefighters and police officers who went back inside the towers for one more trip. God bless the brave people on United Airlines Flight 93, whose sacrifice saved the lives of hundreds more. God bless this beautiful country and the men and women who still continue to defend it.
Life is too short to not let people know how much you love them. We owe it to the thousands who will never get the chance. May we never forget.