There are many days we will never forget: graduating, walking down the aisle, the birth of our children, maybe even the tragic loss of a loved one.
Many of us have a collective memory of the day the world changed for all Americans.
Where were you on 9/11 when you first heard of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers?
I was in the advertising department of the Austin Daily Herald in Austin, Minnesota, when our editor shouted, “A plane has just struck the World Trade Center.” We all hurried to the TV in the newsroom and watched in disbelief. It was a surreal moment. Nobody said a word. Everyone held their breath watching the smoking tower before the videos of the plane striking the tower started to appear.
We were in shock, eyes glued to the TV. Minutes later the second tower was hit. Sirens blared. Smoke swallowed the tops of the towers. The news captured scenes of the heroes running into the building to save lives. Unimaginable scenes started to play out in front of our eyes while first one tower collapsed. Then the other tower fell, forever changing the lives of so many families and hardening the hearts of so many Americans.
Our entire newspaper office sat there in front of that television witnessing the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, including mostly civilians, 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers, as well as all the passengers and crews on the airplanes and even the 19 hijackers.
The images, videos, recorded calls and frantic searches that followed will forever be remembered by those who witnessed this attack on our country unfold.
I was fortunate enough to visit the World Trade Center while in New York before the terrorist attacks. I rode the elevator to the top with one of my best friends and stared out at the New York City skyline below feeling on top of the world.
I vividly recall visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty with the World Trade Center visible within the background of the pictures taken. I was also fortunate enough to visit the site years later with a somber heart as I looked at the memorial where so many had perished.
As we arrive at the 20-year mark of this horrific and tragic terrorist attack, take a moment to put aside our differences and remember how we came together in the hours, days, weeks, months and years that followed 9/11 as families, communities and as a nation.
Freedom is fragile. God bless the United States of America.