Not unlike most mornings, I had hair to comb and ponytails to secure, breakfast to make, and plenty of hugs and kisses to deliver as I sent my two little girls off to school. Back then, school didn’t start until after Labor Day, so they were just beginning — second grade for Elizabeth and kindergarten for Emily.
Once I had them on their way, I started my commute to work, which at that time was in East Lansing, working for Michigan Agri-Business Association and American Farmland Trust as director of communications for both organizations.
My workday began at 9 a.m., and I was about 15 minutes early sitting in the parking lot. Phil Vassar was singing “Just Another Day in Paradise,” when a news broadcast broke through. I left the car running to hear the announcement that there had been an explosion at one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
At first it was reported as a fire, possibly caused by mechanical problems. But as the cameras recorded and zoomed in revealing a massive hole and an inferno, it was presumed to be caused by an aircraft, possibly a small Cessna that malfunctioned. A freak accident, maybe?
Still sitting in my car, speculation started to surface about a terrorist attack. I scrambled into work and found the only TV in the office, and the whole staff huddled around to watch the live stream of a second plane striking the other tower. This was no Cessna. We’d later learn it was a Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel, just like the first.
It was clear this was not just another day in paradise. This surely was a spark for the fury to follow. I remember saying, “Life will never be the same,” as tears continually streamed down my face. Unfortunately, I was correct, and it holds true to this day.
PRAYERS: Our military members deserve support and continual prayers as the war on terrorism continues. This banner hangs below a shelf in my kitchen. It reads, "Soldier’s Prayer – Almighty God, Please keep and bless this one who serves our nation. Guide and protect us from this day forth with your strong arm of protection."
The totality of the destruction, loss of life and just pure evil of that day will forever be etched in my memory.
At the time, my two little girls had no breadth of what this attack would mean for the future. And, frankly, at that point, I wasn’t sure I wanted them to know. In one day, the country changed. They would live differently than previous generations, only knowing a country perpetually fighting the war on terror.
As I write this on the day of the 18th anniversary, the significance of that day is a memory for me, but it’s history for young people. As adults, would they know more than 10 times as many people died on that day as have died in any single terrorist attack before or after in the U.S. — more than 3,000? I can only imagine the shock, horror and grief that followed for loved ones left with gaping holes in their hearts and lives.
I applaud New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for signing a new law, which mandates public schools across the state to allow a moment of silence each year to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The law is intended to encourage dialogue and education in the classroom.
In the aftermath, the U.S. armed forces quickly went to war in Afghanistan, and the American people swiftly bonded with a sense of purpose, unity and retaliation. And while this event cannot be undone, this tragedy has made our government stronger, more focused and more determined to protect Americans.
It is critical we recognize terrorism as a continual threat. I am very much reminded as those two blond-haired, blue-eyed schoolgirls are now all grown up.
Elizabeth is now a 25-year-old first lieutenant in the Marines, serving in the sandbox fighting the same war that started when she was a kid. Her sister stands ready and waiting for active duty as a sergeant in the Army National Guard.