Note: I wrote this piece a couple of years ago as editor of The East Texan, but I have posted it every year since. It still rings true.
It’s a date that we all know well. Its haunting story now graces the pages of every history text. Where two massive towers proudly stood atop the Manhattan skyline, there are now two holes in the ground and the memory of what occurred on that grisly day. In the distance, a new huge tower rises up to take the place of the two main World Trade Centers that fell before it.
If nothing else, September 11 was a memorable day. With every gripe we muster as we go through increasingly tighter airport security, we remember. With every disturbing image we see of two towers burning, we remember. With every one of our fighting brothers and sisters who die in the Middle East, we remember.
To many, September 11 brings to mind a story about how 19 terrorists hijacked four planes with the successful intent to wreak havoc on the American public. It’s a story about how these 19 men were responsible for the deaths of almost 3,000. But to me, like with any tragedy, September 11 was a day that told a story about people.
To me, September 11 was a day about 19 men whose brains were so twisted and washed, that they believed they were doing the world a favor. It’s a day about the newscasters who were powerless to do anything but say, “These pictures are frightening, indeed.” It’s a day about the suffocating men and women trapped above the points of impact in the two towers that were so desperate, they did the only thing that they thought they could do: jump. It’s a day about the heroic men and women who went into the doomed towers willingly to do everything they could to make sure as many people as possible made it out alive. It’s a day about the men and women onboard United Airlines Flight 93 who refused to allow their plane to be used as yet another instrument of destruction and gave their own lives to protect the lives of countless others. It’s about the terrified man on Floor 125 of World Trade Center Tower 1 who called for 911 and was on the phone with the dispatcher as the tower fell to the ground.
Every once in a while, I find myself on YouTube re-watching the events of September 11. I take in the images of the second plane exploding into the second tower. I listen to the reactions of the newscasters who are powerless to do anything except report what they’re seeing. I think about the countless families who were torn apart that day. I visualize Osama Bin Laden watching the reports with glee congratulating himself on a job well done. I see President Bush standing in the tower ruins with a megaphone, unaware that he was about to use this tragedy as an excuse to invade a country that had nothing to do with it. I watch. And I remember.