When 9-11 happened I was working for the Department of Defense as a consultant at the former Griffiss Airbase in Rome, NY. Someone called to us all to come see what was happening. There was a plane crash in NY City. We had one TV in the office and we all huddled around it. We gasped as we watched the second plane hit the second tower. I was stunned. Two planes couldn’t be an accident.
Our boss walked in the room and announced that the Airforce had called to tell us stay inside. All of Griffiss was locked down and we would be ‘detained’ or possibly shot if we went outside by patrols. I thought, “This can’t be happening.”
I thought the lockdown was unnecessary because Griffiss was a decommissioned base. Most of it was a business & technology park. There were a few military offices still present, such as Rome Lab and the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) buildings, but we shouldn’t be a target in little Rome, NY. Then someone explained that early detection radar for the North Atlantic was still housed there.
Well it was a very trying day to say the least. I called my wife to tell her what was happening and we waited for hours, glued to the TV and Internet looking for information. We heard something about another plane hitting the Pentagon and one headed for the Whitehouse. This was like some bad movie. Could we really be under attack on American soil? Were they really using our own commercial planes? Unthinkable!
I thought about the people who died in those planes and how some of their families probably watched in on TV like I did. I paused to pray for them.
When we were finally let go, I drove home as fast I could to my wife and three small daughters, not knowing what the night would bring. Then I prayed for us all.
Could it be ten years later already? It seems so clear in my memory, like it was last week. Yet, I realize I’ve lived in Albany for over 6 years and my kids are all older, then it seems a long time ago.
We have moved on in most of our nation but there are huge exceptions. The families of the people lost when the Twin Towers fell…they can’t just move on. Their lives are forever changed. I’m sure many of the people who had loved ones on the planes, still have nightmares, images of planes hitting skyscrapers. Horrible memories reactivated by news stories or the latest Made-For-TV movie. To the military families that still have love ones fighting in far away deserts, 9-11 wasn’t that long ago. The New Yorkers who will walk by the Ground Zero Memorial will never forget that day.
Someday I will tell stories to my Grandkids about 9-11 the way my mother told my kids about Pearl Harbor. I’ll talk about how stunned we were sure, but more about how proud I was of our nations reaction. We weren’t different races or social groups, no. We were proud to be Americans and willing to fight to keep our nation safe. I’ll talk about how stores sold out of flags and how I never saw people be so patriotic.
Yes, our nation has healed and we’re back to bickering among ourselves. That’s ok; disagreement is healthy so long as it doesn’t become division and strife. My prayer is that we will stay one nation, under God, indivisible and that it won’t take another attack to get us to work together for good. I hope you’ll join me in that prayer and praying for the families of our fallen fellow Americans.