Still half asleep, I turned on the news at 7:00 a.m. and laid my head back on the pillow. I heard, “…look back at events that changed America 19 years ago.” I immediately knew it was my friend’s birthday. In 2001, she and I taught at a Vocational Technical school in Denver when two planes hit the World Trade Center Twin Towers. We survived the adverse experience with students gathered around TVs watching over and over the unbelievable hits showing smoke and ash as the buildings imploded, and people ran for their lives. Students were sent home before noon. The staff was quiet and sad, as we focused on safety and the overwhelming pain.
Instead of birthday cake and good wine, I joined her at dusk in front of the Capitol for a candlelight memorial service. She said, “For the rest of my life, this terror attack will overshadow my birthday.” She was right. On this 2020 morning, the news triggered a reminder of her special day, and then immediately, that sunny, beautiful, 7:00 a.m. Colorado morning flashed in my mind. I was again driving east on I-70 to work in my sweet little white Saturn sedan and listening to KOA news.
President Bush, right before the Secret Service rushed him into Air Force One, said, “Terrorism against our nation will not stand,” In the evening, when it seemed the attack was over and he was safe, our President came back on with, “Good evening. Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.”
I remember listening to his message and feeling less frightened and more secure. He told us the truth without throwing us into a national out-of-control panic. He called for us to unite and assured America would survive. We grieved united and healed through common compassion and emotional support.
Today after calling my friend to wish her a Happy Birthday, I reflected on the difference between America then and now. A feeling of deep sadness overtook me, and I knew why. There are so many reasons.