Nine Eleven Two Thousand and One. That date has been written so many different ways over the past nine years. Every year we remember the fallen, the heroes, the stories. We all remember where we were on September 11, 2001. No other date in modern history has had the same impact. 9/11/01 changed the course of American history, of American culture and of American life. It also had a significant impact on the rest of the world.
As we mark the ninth anniversary of this terrible day, I, like so many others, can remember exactly where I was that morning. I was a senior in high school, almost one month into my senior year, and I was taking a grammar test in first period AP English. Needless to say, when the art teacher came rushing into the room and turned on the television, all grammar test thoughts went out of my head. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. To me, as I watched that first tower fall, it seemed like the movie Independence Day. It was surreal. Moments later, when the second tower fell, I was brought back to reality. My first and only thought was of my father, who lives and works in New York City. I answered the final test questions in a rush (I remember I scored an 88 because of my hurry), and I raced to the front office to call my mom. My sister, who was a freshmen, met me in the hall. On the first try, we couldn't reach my mom, but we finally got through to her. My dad was fine. He had actually been scheduled to fly out that morning, but for some reason, he didn't make his flight. He was in the city to see the after effects of the biggest tragedy in U.S. history. On the other side of the country, my 67-year-old grandma was at her home right outside of L.A. Of course, we had no idea what was going to happen next, so we were all very concerned for her safety as well. She never really recovered from September 11.
In the moments, days and weeks that followed, I couldn't pull myself away from the news reports. I remember seeing CNN's Aaron Brown crying on national television. He will always have my respect for that. I remember seeing the humanity and the inhumanity in people. In small town Mississippi, I was shocked by the number of people who didn't seem affected by this terrible disaster. They saw New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania as different worlds, and they couldn't relate to them. I also saw people who wore their patriotism proudly for all to see. The juxtaposition of the two is something I won't ever forget.
The effects of September 11 have been great. Every time I watch a movie shot in New York before September 2001, I realize what a beautiful and unique skyline NYC had. I never visited the Twin Towers, but I loved them from a distance. They were an architectual marvel and a huge part of NYC commerce and daily life. There is no way we can ever build a memorial that is great enough to scale the impact of this tragedy.
I flew from Los Angeles to Memphis in early August 2001. I did not fly again until August 2003. I never liked flying in the first place, and after 9/11, I was terrified. Sadly, it took my grandma's illness to get me in the skies again. When I did return to air travel, I realized I would never see another smiling face waiting for me at the gate when I stepped off a plane. That was a tradition with our family - we always waited at the gate for each other as we were coming and going. Because my family is spread out all over the world, this was something that was very important to us. I can remember the long flights from London to L.A. We were always so tired until we landed, and then we rushed off the plane to be greeted by my grandma's hugs and kisses. On a side note, the last flight I took to L.A. before 9/11 was also the last time my grandma was well enough to meet us at the gate. For some reason, we took a photo of that moment. I will treasure that photo forever. It's at my mom's house, but I'll try to find it and post it sometime. That was a very special trip for me, one I won't ever forget.
Earlier this year, my dad's company relocated to 7 World Trade Center. His office looks out onto Ground Zero. I am proud his company has chosen to be a part of the future of the area, but it also scares me. I know nothing will ever be the same again. We have lost that sense of security we had in our pre-9/11 world.
Today I remember that world, the day everything changed forever, and I give thanks to those who work so diligently to ensure our safety. I am so grateful for their service and for their sacrifice.