Tomorrow is Patriot Day (not to be confused with Patriot’s Day, an official state holiday in several states commemorating the first battles of the American Revolutionary War). Of course anyone older than nineteen or twenty will remember the events that brought about Patriot Day. September 11, 2001 is our generation’s Pearl Harbor. It was life changing for everyone in the nation, not just the firsthand witnesses.
My kids were eight on that day. They were getting ready for school when my sister Suzy called me and asked if I knew what was going on. I didn’t. She told me to turn on the television while she explained what she knew. It was a little before 7:00 a.m. Mountain time. As we watched together, we discussed the plane hitting the North Tower in New York and what it might mean. There were rumors that something bigger was going on, that there might be hijackings involved. We were glued to the screen. Much of the time, we just sat in silence, one ear on the phone, one focused on the news anchors. Then all of the sudden, the second plane crashed into the South Tower.
Utterly shocked, as was everyone, we knew then that it was much worse than we thought, that something terrible, intentional and evil, was going on. We watched together for a while longer, then I had to get my kids to school. With a sick feeling of dread and shock, I picked up our carpool and took them all to school, not sure even what to do. When I got home, I turned the TV back on and called Suzy back and we kept watching, waiting to find out more.
In shock and horror, we watched the towers fall. It was too much to get our brains around.
As the commentators waited for more information—along with the rest of us watching—they started getting reports about the president. He was being evacuated and taken to a safe place of defense and protection. And one of the three possible places was NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain. It just so happened that my kids were at school at Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy. And they were talking about shutting down the roads to secure the area. My kids might be stuck at school, and we didn’t know for how long.
My carpool partner, Sina, called me. She’d heard the same thing. The kids might be put into lock down. After just watching the terror play out on the screen, we needed our kids close by, so Sina jumped in her van and went and got all seven of our kids and brought them home. The president ended up going to Offutt AFB in Nebraska instead of NORAD, but it didn’t matter. We needed our families at our sides.
For a long time after the attacks, every time I saw a plane in the sky I braced myself to see it explode. And if I only heard one, I prepared to hear it blow up. I guess it was a mild kind of PTSD. I can’t imagine the recovery it took for those who witnessed any part of the events first hand. They may still be working through the trauma. And of course, those who lost a loved one will never fully recover.
Tomorrow flags will fly at half staff all over the country. Patriot Day is a national day of prayer and remembrance for the victims of the attacks. There will be some official ceremonies, but most of us will just hear that date sometime during our normal routine and remember where we were on 9/11 and how it impacted us. And we’ll think of what was lost, and where we’ve come, and other horrific acts since that have darkened our days. But as we remember, let’s pray for peace. And forgiveness. And no more hatred. And when we go out and about, practice some peace of our own toward others. Sometimes that’s all we can do. And sometimes, that is the most healing and impactful, both for ourselves and others.
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