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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering 9/11

Where were you, what were you doing, 13 years ago this morning? Where were you when you first heard news of the attacks on America by a group of radical Muslim cowards? If you are like most Americans, September 11, 2001 is one of those days that will forever be etched in your memory. For me, 9/11 is a life-changing day, along with the assassination of Pres. John Kennedy, and the loss of space shuttle Challenger and later, space shuttle Columbia.

I will always remember hearing the news of the cowardly attacks on New York City as I was stuck in a massive traffic jam on 9/11. I will always remember the nearly 3,000 innocent people who were murdered that day, those whose lives are forever shattered, and the first responders who went into the buildings when everyone else was racing to escape. I will always remember the horrible pictures of people jumping to their deaths, and racing to escape the black cloud of dust and debris as it roared down the streets of New York City. I will always remember the unflagging dedication of the search dogs and their handlers as they looked for survivors and later, for the remains of the murdered. I remember the exhausted faces of the handlers and dogs after their return home, and the frustration of some members of the disaster response team who were unable to go. They had been trained for just such a disaster, but not everyone was called to respond.

I will always remember being told to send our staff home, and how my supervisor and I stayed at work, fielding innumerable calls from the news media, developing talking points, coordinating with NASA headquarters and feeling totally numb. As federal employees, we felt especially vulnerable that day, so our center was closed and all but a few essential personnel were sent home. I remember working many long days without a break and how panicked I felt when I heard an airplane approaching the runways shared by NASA and the military, even though I knew it was a NASA plane that was expected. The sound of this airplane's engines sent my heart racing. 

And I remember when I finally got a day off work, sitting in my living room watching the endless replays of the planes hitting the Twin Towers, and the towers collapsing, finally at last being able to give in to my grief and letting the endless tears wash over me. I will always remember how this nation, and the world, came together in the aftermath of these cowardly attacks. People wanted to do something, anything, to help. International disputes and rivalries were set aside as the world came together to mourn.

Our world has changed greatly since 9/11, and not for the better. Nations still are being torn apart by wars and by terrorism. Air travel has become a major hassle. Billions of dollars have been spent on enhanced security around the world. Muslim extremists like those who attacked the United States on 9/11 have become even bolder in their attacks on innocent people. They have kidnapped hundreds of schoolchildren in Nigeria. They have murdered countless innocent people in Iraq. They are trying to establish a so-called 'caliphate of Islam' in parts of Syria and Iraq. 

I will always wish the world would come together once more without being prompted by a huge tragedy. Let us come together to fight those who would attack our nation and its citizens, and to tackle the world's injustices without shedding more blood. And let us always remember those who lost their lives on 9/11/01, as well as those they left behind.