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September 11th

In America, September 11th is a day of remembrance and honor. Often referred to as 9/11 (nine eleven), this country drastically changed 20 years ago.


The morning of September 11th, 2001, the sky was bright blue with not a cloud to be seen. The picture below was taken about 8:30am of Lower Manhattan from Brooklyn. That all changed in less than 30 minutes as the North Tower was struck at 8:46am and the South Tower at 9:03am.


Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day creating the single largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil (or deadliest terrorist attacks in world history). The toll was: 246 from the 4 flights. 2,606 from the World Trade Center towers. 125 from the Pentagon. Additionally, 343 New York Firefighters and 60 from New York Police Department and Port Authority Police Department lost their lives. While the attacks were on America soil, it was felt worldwide. Did you know people from 90 different countries were killed in the attacks? The flags from each country hang in the lobby of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Additionally, approximately 2 billion people (almost one third of the world’s population), witnessed these horrific events either directly or on TV, the radio, or the internet broadcasts that day.


In the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, there is a wall with blue squares on it. The wall is called “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning.” The wall is composed of 2,983 individual watercolor drawing. One drawing for each person killed in the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the bombing that happened at Tower 1 on February 26, 1993. Behind this very large, blue wall is a repository. 40% of the families who lost a loved one in the attacks on 9/11 still have not received their remains. Let that sink in. It’s been 20 years and still 40% of families have not been able to lay that family member to rest how they would like to. Many families consider this repository as their loved ones final resting place. No one has access to the repository except the city medical examiner. Families can make appointments to go into the repository.


There is a section of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum that is currently closed off. However, I was able to see much of it from the rope. There is a sign at the entrance that says, “ADVISORY. This area of the exhibit includes content that may be particularly disturbing.” Right in front is a picture of one of the towers close up and near the top. It shows the windowsills filled with people. I cannot imagine what is going through their minds. There are a few quotes on the walls that I wanted to share with you.

“You felt compelled to watch out of respect to them. They were ending their life without a choice and to turn away from them would have been wrong.” – Louisa Griffith Jones, Lower Manhattan Resident.

“While we still looked up, a man jumped from the building. White shirt, black pants, end-over-end tumbling to the ground…. At that instant, the towering glass and metal mass billowing in the smoke became human.” – Victor Colantonio, Eyewitness.


There is part of the museum where you can listen to the black box recordings of United Flight 93. They play a call made to a 911 operator from a passenger. This passenger, knowing this would be the last person not on the plane to talk to, connected with her in an instant. They also play the voicemails that people left their loved ones. You hear them trying to be calm, but the fear and panic in their voices is unmasked.


While the entire 9/11 Memorial and Museum is quite hard to visit and relive that day, the very real human aspect of that day makes it the hardest part. You hear the numbers and stats of lives lost. But to see a person leap from the building and hear someone call their loved one for the last time, that hit me extremely hard. What would you do in that situation? I pray you never have to find out.


It is often said that the attacks on 9/11 is my generations version of Pearl Harbor. I find this to be very accurate. I remember everything that happened on September 11th, 2001. My grandmother is the same about December 7th, 1941.



Where were you when the world stopped turning?


I was in college and driving to class. Per the usual, I had a local radio station on. They were talking about what was happening, but I thought it was a crude joke (something they did often). I changed stations, and they were saying the same thing. Changed again and more of the same.


I parked at the campus and headed to the cafeteria. Most people I walked by were silent. A few asked to others “Is this really happening?” I walked in the cafeteria to see that 2 huge TVs were brought in playing the news. The room was packed with the only sound coming from the TVs. I found my table of friends, and like everyone else, we sat there in silence. We were trying to process what the news was saying. It seemed unbelievable.


Just before 9am, I headed to my first class. The whole way there, I asked why were we even having class when all this was going on. We sat there for 15 minutes talking about it when an announcement came on stating all classes were canceled for the rest of the day. I hurried out of to my car and drove home still listening to the news on the radio. My roommates had the TV on when I arrived and a few of their buddies over. The anger and rage that came from them was immense. The sense of American Pride was deafening!! It wasn’t just in our house either. It was nationwide. There was also love for each other and a unity like never before.


When I think back to September 11, 2001, I not only remember the details of the day, but I also remember all the emotions and feelings from it too. It’s something that will always be with me.


While I was devastated over what happened, I was proud to be an American and proud of the actions this country took.

Respectfully,

- Wander With Mekela

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