Sixteen years have passed and yet that day will never fade from memory. And that goes for everyone who lived through the day that felt like the end of the world. While part of me wants to write endlessly about 9/11 recalling every detail and memory, the greater urge today has been to look back into the sky.
On September 11, 2001, I looked up into the clear blue September sky thinking how everything I knew had changed. A paralyzingly eerie feeling overwhelmed my entire body in this surreal gaze. And as a sophomore in high school, I was old enough to process what had happened. The tragedy of the day, with its heart-wrenching imagery, the heroism of the first responders and passengers on United 93 and the ever-lasting, sinking feeling that the world would never be the same will last forever.
The fact that my dad was almost in New York City, specifically the World Trade Center, on the morning of 9/11…Luckily, he got the last flight out of New York City back to Columbus on September 10th, completely unaware of what would happen just hours later.
RIP to all the victims and their families from the plane crashes in New York City, Washington, D.C. and the United 93 flight that heroically crashed in Pennsylvania.
Never forget and “let’s roll.”
Sometimes, a picture is worth more than words can describe.
“A rainbow appeared over New York City the day before 9/11, and many noted that it appeared to emerge from the World Trade Center site, where the Twin Towers were felled by terrorists in 2001.”
—Nick Sanchez, Newsmax
September 11, 2001 began as a serene Tuesday morning that quickly turned into one of the darkest days in American history.
The world changed forever.
Fourteen years later, the New York skyline and the Pentagon still reveal unthinkable images of gigantic planes crashing into buildings, causing destruction and fire with billowing clouds of smoke, brave people running for cover and heroes running into danger. It’s difficult to put into words what we all felt that day, including the personal connections to people in those cities and on those flights that day.
And those who were almost there.
The awe-inspiring picture above (showcasing one of nature’s best tricks) doesn’t heal the pain from September 11, 2001. However, after so many years, still with a feeling that it just happened, it does offer a small glimmer (and sign) of hope for the future as a rare double-rainbow shines over New York City with the One World Trade Center and an American flag perfectly in frame.
It’s a surreal sensation that I can perfectly retrace my steps beginning with hearing the shocking news from a classmate passing by me near the doors of the second floor of my high school’s library. He said a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Confused, I continued to my math class around the corner, walked in and looked up at the television screen in the top left corner like everybody else as I made my way to my seat. There was a giant fiery and smoky hole in one of the towers. Black smoke was billowing out. We had no idea what was going on. I assumed it was a small plane whose pilot lost control. An accident for sure. But as I settled in for a few more moments, I realized the hole was far too large for such a small plane.
It started to register this was no accident.
September 11, 2001 is a day in which those who lived through it will remember forever. It was a tragedy fueled by panic and fear, as well as the pressing questions of why, how, what and who? However, it was also a day that showed us what true heroism looked like with police officers, firefighters, emergency personnel and everyday citizens helping each other through the debris of a literal hell on earth situation that September morning in New York City, Washington, D.C. and aboard a plane that crashed in Pennsylvania and during the dark days that followed.
There aren’t enough words to properly describe and remember the events of September 11th that occurred thirteen years ago. But two words continue to represent an overarching sentiment for us all, on this day, 9/11:
It was one of the clearest blue skies I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget it. I just remember gazing up at this infinitely blue sky, wondering what the hell had just happened. The sight was so serene and beautiful, but confusingly overwhelmed by a new, sinking feeling. This was the same sky I had flown through on countless trips and vacations with my family. It was familiar, welcoming and exciting.
That was until it happened.
It was September 11, 2001 and I was standing in a park surrounded by a bevy of soccer fields in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. It was late afternoon and the after-school sports and activities had apparently been cancelled. I was a sophomore in high school at the time. I just looked up, alone, speechless.
I knew the world had changed, but for how long? In that instance, I hadn’t a damn clue, but I knew it had changed in a very, very big way. I could feel it.
This post is not meant to relive the horrific nature of that day. But yes, today is a random day in February almost 13 years later. This all started because of a partially covered drawing on the left side of the glossy cover for Departures Magazine (as part of a cover story in the form of a comic strip) of skyscrapers and the bluest of skies with the text “11:30 A.M.” peaking out from a stack of magazines on my desk at work. This was coupled with the fact I was listening to the Zero Dark Thirty soundtrack on my computer (around the 34 minute-mark). This flashback came to surprising fruition. It forced me to contemplate how a moment that lasted only seconds can have such a profound and lasting impression in my mind that experiences something new every single day.
However, that day changed everything.
Even with resolution in the form of a spectacular Seal Team Six raid that killed Osama Bin Laden nearly a decade after 9/11, New York City has never felt the same. Millions of people (myself included on several occasions) have had great, unforgettable times there for sure! But something still lingers in the air, supported by an eerie permanence.
Strangely enough, this random vision has provided me with clarity. Each thought provided me with a clear focus and reasoning for why I thought what I did and how I should approach things from this point on. For a brief instance, everything seemed uncomplicated. If for nothing else, maybe this post can serve as a gentle reminder that we don’t need to wait for an anniversary or a specific day or occasion to remember and think about something important. It doesn’t need to be sad, but it can be something positive and astonishing. That same illustration has also pushed me to try to look at a clear blue day with only optimism, even while knowing in the back of my mind that it only takes a seconds or a matter of minutes for something drastic to happen.
Perhaps the drastic situation will be something positive the next time that perfect, clear blue sky arrives…
Whatever causes a comparable reaction for you as the illustration and music did for me this Wednesday morning, don’t ignore it, but instead embrace it. Life is lived in long acts and short scenes…just be sure to bring some sort of purpose to each one.
Maybe this is one of the reasons why we love watching the Olympics so much, to witness a performance or moment of pure, marvelous purpose.
For so many athletes and spectators alike, it’s much more than just a single event or game that motivates and inspires them and us…