The day was Tuesday. It was a lovely day. Sun shining, nary a cloud in the sky. It began as any other. Go to work. Turn on the radio. Sit down with my first cup of coffee and begin tackling all the work that needs to be done for the day.
All activity stops when the radio announcer preempts whatever was playing to proclaim that a plane crashed into one of the twin towers in New York City.
My first thought was that it was an accident similar to what happened in 1948 when a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. I figured while horrifying, it was nothing more than an accident where a pilot wasn’t paying attention.
For the most part I listened to find out more details, which were scant at best.
Until a mere 15 minutes later we hear news that a second plane hit the second tower.
It’s not very often I could describe a reaction to “my blood running cold.” It’s a cliche, but in this instance, an apt one. I knew at that moment we were under some kind of attack. This was all on purpose. Not a half an hour later we heard about another plane hitting the Pentagon, and one more unaccounted for, headed for Pennsylvania.
I went home for lunch and watched the buildings fall in a dense cloud of black smoke and fire.
That image will be burned in my memory forever. As it should be, but more on that later.
With all that was happening, my work still needed to be done. After lunch, me and a few others had to go outside to set some property corners in a new residential subdivision.
I watched a couple dressed in military gear load up their car. I knew they were called up and would end up who-knew-where to prepare for and begin to fight a war. I feared for them, prayed for them, but also silently thanked them for their willingness to put their life on the line so I would not have to. I also noticed the sky was completely devoid of airplane sounds and contrails when normally we’d see four or five at one time during this time of day.
I remember also people wondering why we kept seeing the same footage over and over, and one announcer finally said, “We have a lot more, but we can’t show them.”
What was even more frightening at the time was how there were so few people going into emergency rooms. That meant that people close to the towers were not injured, but killed outright.
It’s a miracle that fewer than 3000 people were killed including those on the planes. Normally more than 50,000 worked at the World Trade Center. One reason there weren’t as many people there was because they simply hadn’t gotten to work yet. The reason the Pentagon survived as well as it did is because the plane crashed into the one area that was just renovated with higher-strength windows and structural materials.
On October 27, 2001, September 11th was designated “Patriot Day” as a day of remembrance and mourning. On this day, all flags are to be flown at half-staff, and request that all Americans observe a moment of silence to remember those that perished that day beginning at 8:46am Eastern Daylight Time. House Resolution 71 passed the House 407-0 and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 18, 2001.
On September 9, 2011, President Obama released a proclamation calling September 11 “Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.” The proclamation states in part: “. . . I ask all Americans to join together in serving their communities and neighborhoods in honor of the victims of the September 11 attacks. Today and throughout the year, scores of Americans answer the call to make service a way of life — from helping the homeless to teaching underserved students to bringing relief to disaster zones. I encourage all Americans to visit Serve.gov, or Servir.gov for Spanish speakers, to learn more about service opportunities across our country.”
It’s the same again this year, because I’m hearing public service announcements on the radio about serving the community on September 11.
I’m all for serving communities. Every day of the week, not only on September 11th.
What I take issue with is calling Patriot Day also a Day of Service and Remembrance with an emphasis on service. Emphasizing the service part minimizes what happened that day. That day was an attack on our nation. It was an act of war. Acting like it was anything else is a true disservice to everyone who died that day.
It’s a day to remember that our country is worth protecting, just as those people on Fight 93 did. They didn’t sit back and let the terrorists take control over their destiny. They decided that if they would die, they would do it on their terms, and with the hope their actions would save lives of those on the ground the terrorists intended to kill.
It’s a day to be a Patriot; to say to our enemies, “We will not be terrorized. We will not bow down to you. If you try to destroy us, prepare to face the consequences.”
It’s a day to say, “Let’s roll.”