Seven years ago this day, at about this hour, I had just dropped Daughter off to school – it was her fourth day of first grade in a brand new school. I came home and tried to get online but dial-up took even longer to connect that day than usual. I remember being angry at that. I also remember walking away to let it connect while I nonchalantly poured myself a cup of coffee.
Back at the computer, my front page had finally opened. There was a headline – “Plane crashes into World Trade Center”. Hmm. Another idiot flying low enough to hit a tower? Something like that had happened just a week prior – an accident. A stupid mistake. Of course, this was more of that. I clicked the link, poured a second cup before it fully loaded only to see the same headline without a story. There was nothing else on the page, just the headline “Plane crashes into World Trade Center”.
Annoyed with our Internet provider, I disconnected from the internet, and immediately, my phone rang. A friend, breathless and struggling, said, “Put on the TV.” And then I saw it. A plane had indeed crashed into the World Trade Center. Smoke billowed from the sides of the building and I couldn’t imagine how those people would get out… or how someone would get in to help them all the way up there at the top.
I called hubby in and we watched, somehow realizing there was more to this horror than what we saw. And suddenly, it happened again. We saw the plane, the impact, the resulting explosion of fuel, flames and debris. When the reporters said another plane was ‘lost’ or not responding, we ran from the house. We had no idea what was going on but whatever it was, we were all going to be together.
We weren’t the only ones with that idea. Parents were streaming in and out of the school when we arrived, all taking their children home to ‘safety’. We made it home just in time to see the first tower fall. The image was repeated and repeated. Planes crashing into the buildings, the antenna disappearing behind a rolling cloud of smoke as it plummeted to the ground clinging atop the building. People running, chased by clouds of smoke and debris. By the time the day had ended those image were seared in our brains. As were the images of first responders rushing to the madness. Hoping to help. Not thinking of their safety but the safety of others. New York’s Finest and New York’s Bravest. Never were we more proud. Never were we more saddened.
Smoke lingered for days. The stench in the air made it nearly impossible to breathe. How people braved ground zero, I can’t say, but I know their strength and determination to rescue those they knew and those they didn’t know was the beauty and humanity in an otherwise inhumane and disgusting day.
New Yorkers pulled together. The country stood behind us. We all cried for the victims – here in NY, in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon – and we hoped. We watched the world come together in support of us. And we watched that support get squandered away. We heard our leader say we’d get the man responsible for this – dead or alive – and then we heard him say that man was no longer important. We watched world support turn to world disdain and we watched attention shift from the horrible truth of 9/11 to the disgusting lies of WMDs.
We lost lives. We lost pride. We lost our standing in the world. The NY skyline still waits to be rebuilt and the man responsible for it all still runs free. Are we any safer? Are we any more tolerant or understanding? Do we have each other’s back or will we be at each other’s throats? Will the next election bring change or more of the same? Will we ever see a true uniter in the White House or will dividers continue to divide and weaken?
Seven years on, we have more questions than answers. Seven years on, we wait for closure. Seven years on, thousands are still mourned and a lame duck president sits in the Oval Office. We are no closer to getting the 9/11 masterminds. We are no safer than we were on September 10th, 2001. Seven years on, gay rights and choice are more important to some than the effects – and inconclusiveness of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. Seven years on, soldiers have died. Innocent civilians have been maimed and killed. Our first responders suffer damaged lungs and death. The smell lingered for days. The horror lingers till now as headlines of “Never Forget” are replaced by headlines of “Pigs with Lipstick”.
Seven years on and it’s more of the same with, sadly, no real change in sight.