I was in homeroom, sitting there, being a little dickhead like boys of a certain age are wont to do. I never had an inkling as to what was about to come over the loud speaker - "a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York." For whatever reason, I remember a kid sitting close to me saying "it's probably Saddam Hussein using EMP technology". (Thank god twitter didn’t exist back then). We all kind of just looked at each other in silence, soaking in this surreal news as the principal instructed students with family in NY to report to the office to try and contact home. For me, that wasn't an issue, thankfully.
I actually don't remember much else about that day, but I do remember walking down a hallway and seeing a class watching the events on TV. Other students had coalesced around the door of the classroom, looking for an opportunity to watch and see what was unfolding. The group on onlookers eventually grew big enough that this teacher invited everyone inside to watch along with his class. One thing that remains vivid to me is when the teacher went to the chalk board and wrote out "9-1-1". He said "they chose today to send a message, today's date is not an accident." That sent shivers down my spine. I suppose I didn't really understand the magnitude of what was unfolding until I saw those numbers "9-1-1" etched on the board . Not only we're people, MY PEOPLE, dying, but this was an ATTACK and an attack that had been coordinated, extremely well thought-out and vicious in its symbolism.
The days and weeks ahead were an eerie new world for all Americans. Everyone was thinking terrorism, everyone was scared, but everyone was patriotic. I remember seeing flags EVERYWHERE. I remember the national night of remembrance, where people all over the country put candles in paper bags that lined the sidewalks (at least in my neighborhood).
I also remember the crucial role that sports played as the country tried to put itself back together. I'll never forget the image of Sammy Sosa rounding the bases, proudly and somberly carrying a miniature American Flag that someone had handed to him.
I'll never forget New England Patriots Offensive Lineman, Joe Andruzzi, who's brothers were all New York City Firemen, running out of the tunnel holding two American Flags in the NFL's first week back after the attacks:
Perhaps more than anything, I'll never forget the the 2001 World Series. The Yankees were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks and above Yankee Stadium flew an American Flag recovered from the carnage of Ground Zero. That beautiful, tattered, American Flag served as an undeniable reminder of what had happened and what needed to be done - justice.
Chief among my memories from that series wasn't an actual pitch from any of the games, but a pitch from the President of the United States. I remember hearing that Bush was going to throw out the first pitch before Game Three, in Yankee Stadium and I had a feeling of dread. Like, are these crazy terrorist bastards going to try kill him while he's on the mound? Are they going to blow him up? They didn't blow him up and on October 30, 2011, George W. Bush stepped on the mound at Yankee Stadium, with the entire world watching, with the whole nation looking for a show of strength, with 50-some thousand people screaming and did this:
He stood on the mound and, from the rubber, threw an absolute fucking dart. I know it's stupid, but after seeing him throw that pitch, I felt like everything was going to be alright. It was re-assuring, to (heavens forbid) see a MAN be a MAN during that time of extreme uncertainty. There are a ton of criticisms that can be made about GWB and his presidency (I make them all the time), but his resolve during the immediate aftermath after 9/11 is something that cannot be overstated. He was a rock and he was what the country needed.
When I think about how it has been 19 years since the attacks, it makes me realize how much of my life was shaped by that day and the events to follow. When I think about the "problems" facing the country (outside of COVID) and compare them to what the country went through after 9/11, they all seem silly.
When we #Remember911 we should remember the fallen, the bravery, the courage that so many showed that day. But we should also remember the days, weeks and months that followed and how they exemplified the BEST about this country. It showed us what we can do when we're all united and feel like our backs are pushed up against a wall.
America is great, Never Forget.