I was reading a touching story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today. It was about an adopted woman who discovered that her biological father was one of the people who fought terrorists aboard a doomed airplane on Sept. 11, 2001.
Then I read the reader comments.
“We have forgotten. We have forgotten that feeling of all Americans being on the same side. We have forgotten all the kindness shown to others in the aftermath of this horrific attack. We have forgotten how to be a united country.”
“Could we not relive 9/11 every two minutes? Yes, it was awful. And it won’t be forgotten. Seems like people in this country just love talking about bad stuff and feeling the panic. Over and over and over.”
Sept. 11, 2001
I was driving to work at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park that morning. The music channel I listened to wasn’t playing music. They were talking about something happening in New York City.
Driving east down Excelsior Boulevard into the bright early morning sun, I remember having chills as they described a plane hitting the World Trade Center.
I don’t know why, but it felt in that moment that something was changing. Little did I know.
When I arrived at work, my colleagues in the public affairs department were huddled around a 13” television that was almost never turned on.
In the room, among others, was the hospital’s CEO. I’d seen him down our hallway only once before. Something was different. It was silent. On the screen, the two towers were still standing, black smoke belching from upper floors.
Moments later, the first one fell. Not long after, the second.
One-by-one, everyone slowly left the room. In silence. Someone turned the TV off.
I remember walking down a hospital corridor later that day to an outdoor patio where people are normally enjoying their lunches. It was a beautiful day in Minnesota just as it was in New York.
That day, nurses and physicians in scrubs and lab coats, maintenance men in overalls, and media relations guys in suits stood quietly in the warm sun as the hospital chaplain beckoned us to remember those who had fallen and pray to protect our country and those who served it.
I remember the warm tears running down my cheeks, not even knowing for sure why. I didn’t brush them away, if only because it would be an acknowledgment that they were there.
I stood at attention, fingers curled, thumbs touching forefingers, an instinctive response from my days in the Air Force.
Something had changed. No one then knew exactly how much. Certainly not me.
Twenty years later, I have not forgotten. Every year, I make a point of watching the stories, reading the memories. I figure some people have to live them; the least I can do is remember.
I don’t relive 9/11 every two minutes. But I do think about it at least once a year. Especially this year.
I remember what happened in the hope that it never will be forgotten and that we will once again experience the kindnesses that were shown and the unity we experienced in its aftermath.
And I remember those who were lost that day and in the 20 years that followed.
I will do so over and over and over.