September 11


I cannot get it out of my head.

I have tried. I have wished it away. I have told myself to move on.

But I can’t.

The day still evokes powerful emotions from within me. Emotions that, by any rational standard, should have faded by now. But they are still there, waiting to emerge again on the 11th day of September, every year since it happened.

(National Park Service)

The images are as powerful today as they were eleven years ago. The massive towers spewing smoke like two simultaneous volcanic eruptions, then collapsing after succumbing to too much damage. A green, lonely field in Pennsylvania sickeningly scarred by smoldering wreckage. The Pentagon, the symbol of America’s might and an office to many of my friends, was gashed open as if with a giant axe.

(Navy photo)

When the second plane hit the Twin Towers we all understood what was unfolding before our eyes. We had instantaneous symmetry of thought. This was not a terrible accident; it was an attack. That moment in time – that sudden, shared realization – has been burned into our collective memories.

The mortal blows had been inspired by nothing more than blind, blood-thirsty hatred for what America stood for – our way of life, our liberty, our pursuit of happiness. They wanted us to what? Suffer? Submit?

We did suffer. We did not submit.

I cannot exorcize the thoughts of pure terror that the three thousand victims experienced in the last minutes of life. Those on the planes, those pinned by burning rubble at the Pentagon, those trapped in the upper floors of the World Trade Center…those who spent their last seconds plummeting from breathtaking heights rather than being burned alive. Those thoughts – their thoughts – haunt me.

When the day was over, I was left with a sense of emptiness. The hole in Manhattan became a metaphor for the pit that was created in my heart.

(Navy photo)

There would be time later for resolve, for patriotism, and for vengeance. But not on that day. On the evening of September 11, we gathered together with families, friends and coworkers to reassure each other and absorb what had occurred. The unimaginable – because for most of us it was beyond anything we had ever considered – had happened.

I never suffered Post Traumatic Stress, but the remembrance of 9/11 gives me a hint of what it must be like. Memories that never fade. Anger that is never assuaged. Images of horror that never go away.

They say, “Never Forget”, as if I could. The day will be with me forever.

And I know it is the same for you.

(Navy photo)


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