Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, my mom woke me up. It was a Tuesday in my third week of college. She turned on the TV and told me that my dad, who was in Europe on a business trip, called and said something was happening in New York.
The only image on the news was a view of black smoke billowing out of the north tower of the World Trade Center. I’d learn that American Airlines Flight 11 had crashed into it. While watching the smoke pour out of the building on the TV screen, I saw a passenger jet slam into the south tower of the WTC creating a spectacular fireball that shot out of the building. This was United Airlines Flight 175.
My first thought was that this had been a tragic accident. Once I saw the second plane I knew it was terrorism. News of the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania confirmed this fear.
In October 2001, I had the opportunity to accompany my dad on a business trip to New York. I still remember the approach to the city, with smoke still rising from the smoldering ruins in lower Manhattan. The few days I spent in New York were surreal and memorable in a way I know no other trip will be. New Yorkers, known for their fast pace and impatience, were all friendly and helpful, from the taxi drivers, to the waitresses to the storeowners and the people on the street. Despite the horror of the attacks, New Yorkers came together in an exceptional way and it was a privilege to see it firsthand.
While in New York I was able to walk to within a block of where the World Trade Center towers had stood. Cars and buildings were still covered in a thick layer of dust which had surged in a cloud out of the collapsing buildings.
September 11, 2001, was a turning point in my life, like it was for so many other Americans and others around the world. From that day forward I took an intent interest in politics and world events. I knew that it was my responsibility as a citizen to be informed, for we had entered uncharted territory as a nation.
Today we remember and pray for those killed ten years ago. Many of them died as heroes, selflessly working to save the lives of people they didn’t know. They all had families, friends, ambitions and passions. Their lives were cut short intentionally, because of an act of hatred. The most fitting tribute we can give to their memories is to treasure each day as if it were our last and to meet the challenge of fear and hatred with love for one another.