Do you remember where you were?
I was teaching first grade. Someone came down the hall saying that a plane had flown into the Wall Trade Center in New York City. It was astonishing news and our principal would not let us turn on the TV in our rooms. Someone came to let us know there had been another plane. We talked in hushed voices so our children wouldn't hear. But they knew something was up and they were getting antsy.
It was time for recess and my kids were not aware of the devastation happening in NYC so I took them out. I was the only one on the playground--which should have struck me as odd, but it did not. I was watching my kids play and praying that the news I was getting bits and pieces of was not as bad as they were saying.
It's about 9:45. A teacher walks out to the playground shaking her head and says, "Did you hear that Pentagon was hit too?"
I can't breathe normally. The Pentagon...that is the backyard of part of my childhood. I've been to the Pentagon. I drove by it countless times when I lived in Virginia.
My parents live 25 minutes from there. My parents. A thought hits me.
My dad regularly visits the Pentagon for work. Was he there today? I had no idea. I was in Georgia and never had my dad's daily schedule. My knees kind of go weak and my mouth is suddenly so dry. I tried to call my mom. All circuits are busy. Of course. Everyone is trying to call their loved ones.
I finally got through to my oldest sister who tells me that my dad is not at the Pentagon--in fact he is in London on business. Never, ever have I been so relieved to have my father out of the country.
I head back inside to news that one of the towers fell. Breaking all school rules, I call my sister back to confirm since we still can't watch it on TV. She said no. I was relieved...bad school gossip. Then right before I hang up, she sort of gasps. I hold my breath.
"It fell, Paige. It's gone. It's just not there."
I was glued to my television that night watching replay after replay after replay. I cried my eyes out watching the family members walk the streets holding pictures of their loved ones, asking if anyone had seen them. I can still see, as clearly as if it happened just now, a young wife, long blond hair, well tailored navy blue suit, telling a reporter that she must have just missed the name of her husband on a list at a hospital. She just knew he was OK. I often wonder if he made it out. Knowing in my heart that he did not.
Our country rallies together and we all seem so much more patriotic and loving toward our fellow man. Soon I find my family touched by the tragic events that happened on September 11th as we send our soldier into battle in Iraq and then later into Afghanistan. By God's grace he has returned home from his deployments with no physical scars. I have no idea what he carries with him from his times in the Middle East, but I am so grateful he was willing to go.
He fights daily for my freedom to sit on this computer and type words that perhaps no one will read. He fights daily for our right to say whatever we want to say. He fights to ensure that we all can live freely in the land of the brave.
So, today, remember the more than 3,000 people who died on September 11, 2001 and let's show a little extra grace to our fellow man. Remember the 6, 570 soldiers who have died since then, fighting to ensure that we never have to suffer an attack or loss like that again.
Be encouraging. Be kind. Be thankful that we can live freely but don't waste your freedom. Use the memory of September 11th to help you live a life worthy of the more than 9,000 people lost from those horrible events.
And never forget.
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