Remembering September 12th

Tomorrow is the 19th anniversary of the most horrific attack on United States soil. Like many, I remember every minute of the day. The report on the radio that there was “some kind of accident” at the Twin Towers. Searching feverishly for the flight information for two of my colleagues that were flying out of Newark Airport that morning. The panic I tried to quash in my heart as I waited to hear word on my friend’s father. Watching the smoke rise as I drove to School 9 in my hometown of Belleville to check on my friend’s mom.

The 9-11 Memorial in New York City

I remember my husband calling to check on me from the school where he was teaching at the time. I told him I was going to School 9 to check on my friend’s mother. He said one word; “good.” He said he was staying at school until every child was picked up and to see if anything else was needed to be done.

I grew up seeing those two gleaming buildings as I drove down Division Avenue in Belleville. There’s a picture somewhere of me and my “lil’ sis” on her front lawn and you can see them far off in the distance. Now, her father’s 9-11 pin is proudly framed and hangs on the wall in our home.

We watched police, fire fighters, and EMTs rush to the site, never to be seen again. We watched people help each other try to get out alive. We watched people go their local hospital and wait on line for hours to donate blood, anticipating tens of thousands of wounded. The wounded never came.

We all talk about the shock and horror of 9-11. But this year, more than any other year, I choose to remember 9-12.

Within a short period of time, we started to hear the stories of people staying behind with those who couldn’t get out. Men carrying down those who were handicapped. Others who went up the stairs to try and help evacuate those who were trapped instead of running to safety.

America came together to fight back.

We said with one voice – no. We said we stand together as Americans and we refuse to be afraid. We were Americans first. Not Democrat, Republican, or Independent. Not liberal, conservative, or moderate. Not black or white.

Americans.

It is safe to say 2020 has been an incredibly tough year. Frustration. Loss. Sadness. Confusion.

Today, we are a fractured nation on many fronts. There’s a lot of yelling and not much listening.

I wish everyone could remember our nation’s response on 9-12 this year.

Every year, many of us utter the words “never forget.” May we never forget 9-11, but even more, may we never forget 9-12.

9-11: Our Responsibility to the Next Generation

It seems each generation had a moment solidified in time.

Pearl Harbor

The assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

We now add 9-11 to that list.

The children graduation high school this year were not alive when this day happened. Just like the generations before us, we have a responsibility. A responsibility to teach them about this day. To share our feelings and verbal histories. Make sure they understand what happened, what we felt, and how we stood together.

Nearly 700 of New Jersey’s own were lost on that day; and one from my hometown of Belleville: Antoinette Duger, age 44. There are over 150 memorials around New Jersey to remember those souls we lost that day.

9-11 memorialThe company I worked for at the time lost two of our own: Andrew Curry Green and Jeffrey Peter Mladenik. One of our colleagues lost a sister: Jeanette Louise Lafond-Menichino. Two other colleagues were on a flight that morning. Thankfully, they were not on any of the flights that met their fate that day. I remember us scrambling around, looking for their flight information. Calling their cell phones, not knowing until they called us to say they were on the ground and safe.

For those of us who were alive on this day 18 years ago, it is a day frozen in time. It was a morning much like today. Blue sky, pillow-like white clouds, warm, sunny, beautiful.

Then everything changed.

I think about a lot of things this morning. The heart aches for those who lost a family member, a loved one, a friend, a colleague. I think about the man I interviewed with many years ago after the first terrorist attack at the World Trade Center. He told me the job was not work from home. I would need to be in the office every day. I told him I wasn’t concerned because “lightning doesn’t strike twice.” I wonder if he was still working there. I wonder if he made it out. I think about my partner in crime from high school. How her father made it out alive. And I thank God he did.

Those of us who lived through this day 18 years ago have a responsibility to share with this new generation. To make sure we never forget.