Twelve years ago today yet it feels much more recent. Like the assassination of President John Kennedy and the death of Elvis Presley, most people remember where they were on that fateful day in September 2001.
I was in Las Vegas. I had driven out the day before for work. I had planned to call on my college accounts in the area. My brother called me that Tuesday morning while I was getting ready to head out from the hotel.
"Turn on the TV! A plane just hit the World Trade Center!" he told me.
My first thought was that a small, single engine plane had struck the Tower. I learned I was terribly wrong when I turned on the television just as the second plane hit. I was speechless. I dropped to the couch in the hotel room and watched the events unfold. I remember being so confused at what was happening. News reporters where trying to piece the story together and were reporting bits they learned but overall it was a mass state of confusion.
I sat in stunned silence most of that morning. My eyes were glued to the TV and my heart was wretched. I felt connected to people I didn't know in an unimaginable way. They were Americans. They were people with friends, co-workers, families, and lives. We were the same. Yet they were under attack.
My husband - who was then my fiance - called to tell me he had secured the last rental car in the Valley back home. It was a beater but he was driving out to Vegas so he could make the 6-hour drive back home with me. He rattled his way to Vegas in a white hatchback that had been rented one too many times. I recall seeing his hulking frame emerge from such an odd car. My soul was so desperate for humor that it struck me as incredibly funny. I laughed until I had tears in my eyes and then the tears turned to tears of sorrow for all that I had seen on the news. It was such a relief to have him with me. To have some bit of normal by my side.
As the days unfolded, I remember hearing the stories of survival and loss. I remember hearing about first responders and unlikely heroes. I prayed for the rescued, the rescuers, and the ones unaccounted for. I even prayed for the search dogs and prayed they could find survivors so they to could feel joy.
I wondered about colleagues in our offices in Manhattan. I ached for people that were trapped and frightened. I reached a point where I had to remove myself from the TV. After days of stories of joy and heartbreak, I had to step away. I was entrenched in sorrow and I needed a break.
I have never forgotten September 11th. I don't think any of us old enough to have memories of that day will ever forgot. We will never forget how our nation came together. We will never forget praying and fighting for a common cause. We will never forget identifying with people we have never met. We will never forget where we were. We will never forget being proud to be an American.
Where Were you When the World Stopped Turning - this song became an anthem for a nation struck with grief.