It seems every generation has at least one major event where they can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when the event occurred. From the “date which will live in infamy” to the assassinations of world figures like John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., those who remember these events can tell you exact details about that moment in time.
For me, I have very clear memories of the space shuttle Challenger launching, then exploding in air. I was a freshman in high school, watching the launch on a television in the school cafeteria when the tragedy occurred. I can remember the shock and confusion of that moment … immediate questions about what happened? Is this real? Will they be okay? Could they possibly be okay? How could this happen?
The second event that will forever live in my memory is the attack on our nation on September 11, 2001. I was teaching middle schoolers, a part-time job, in Georgia at the time. My first class didn't start until 9:30 so I was just arriving at the school when a teacher stopped me in the hall and said, "Did you hear? Someone crashed into the World Trade Tower!" I remember visualizing a car crashing into the first floor and wondering what more there was to the story.
When I got to my classroom, I turned on the television. Special reports indicated that an aircraft had crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. They were not sure if it was a commercial or private aircraft. It was said that reporters were just starting to get information and “obviously something devastating” was happening. We had no idea.
At 9:03, a second plane was visible on the live coverage as it also crashed directly into the World Trade Center. Immediately, we knew that this was more than an accident.
Our principal announced that all TVs should be turned off; students were not to watch. At the time, there was so much confusion; we didn't yet know for sure what was happening.
I remember calling my husband (a Soldier on Fort Stewart) and having a hard time getting through; the phone lines were overwhelmed. When I finally got through, we started listing the friends we had in NYC, at the Pentagon, and trying to make sense of this horrifying situation. What was happening? Two, then three, then FOUR flights! It can’t be just a coincidence, right? Are we under attack? Will Army installations be next? Who is doing this? It was overwhelming and frightening and is a moment in time I will always remember.
Truly, we will never forget that day; we will always remember and honor those who perished so unexpectedly, their loved ones who continue to miss them, all the heroes who responded that day ... and all the heroes who continue to respond in defense of our freedom. Thank you.