10 years ago, we as Americans were knocked on our collective backside in a way that I can only imagine was felt when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. The main difference is that there was already a (world) war in progress for that one. But I digress.
The early morning hours of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 started out as any other at that time. I was living in Parkville with my at-the-time fiancee, Lee. She was planning to be up semi-early, as she was going to provide the ride for her cousin to the airport for a late morning flight (more on that later). We always slept with the radio on, and almost always on 98.9 The Rock, so we’d wake up with the Johnny Dare & Murphy morning show on. She woke up first, and after AA Flight 11 was flown into the WTC North Tower, 98.9 switched their audio feed over to CBS. I woke up at that point, groggy and confused as to why I was hearing CBS (I believe it was the voice of Peter Jennings) instead of the usual routine. The radio spoke of a tragic accident. We turned the tv on to CBS, and mere moments later, it happened.
“Accident” quickly turned into “ATTACK”.
We watched live as cameras showed UA Flight 175, at full speed, plunge into WTC’s South Tower. I felt a lump in my throat, and instantly got sick to my stomach. I was at a loss for words. What had we just seen? Who was doing this? What was next?
Well, we found out what was next pretty quickly. AA Flight 77 was reported as flying into the Pentagon. Now, regardless of the fact that all of these events were taking place on the east coast, I can safely assure you that I wasn’t the only one sitting in front of my tv, in tears, fearing for what was next – even while living smack-dab in the middle of the country. As far as I was concerned, nothing was off-limits. No place was safe or immune from attack. There was nothing saying that Kansas City, or any other city, couldn’t be a subject of attack.
What was left of my heart on that day got properly destroyed as we watched the WTC South Tower collapse upon itself. What was one-half of the most recognized part of the biggest skyline of America a mere 73 minutes earlier now.. simply did not exist. Then we heard the reports of UA Flight 93’s crash in Shanksville, PA. Then we saw WTC’s North Tower suffer the same fate as its counterpart.
I was numb. Paralyzed with fear of the unknown.
Somewhere amidst all of this, Lee called her cousin to inform her that plans for the airport ride wouldn’t be necessary. Her cousin had not had any sort of tv or radio on, and was completely oblivious to everything that had happened. Lee told her that her flight wouldn’t be going anywhere. She asked “Why not?”. Lee told her to turn on the tv. She replied “Which channel”? Lee’s response: “Pick one.” Moments later, she said she would call us back sometime later. The rest of my day was a blur. I would have moments of disbelief, which were quickly shunned by the fact that it was all laid out before me, on literally any channel I picked to watch.
As I mentioned towards the beginning of this, we were living in Parkville. For those not familiar with the area, Parkville is less than 10 miles south of Kansas City International Airport. We were used to being in the flight patterns of aircraft all the time. The three days of grounded commercial airlines was so surreal. We’d stand out on the balcony, used to the sounds of jet engines and sights of contrails – and there was nothing. Clear skies. Complete silence. I felt out-of-place, despite being exactly where I was supposed to be.
Then, a weird thing happened. After the numbness wore off and we all started to wake up from the fog of everything, we united as a country. Race didn’t matter. Neither did religion, or anything else. We were AMERICANS. Strangers were exchanging eye contact and courtesy nods. There was a newfound pride, and we were one. Sadly, that didn’t last very long, and we as a country were back to our old ways. The only time since then that has stood out to me, temporarily unifying us as one, was the night (and day after) President Obama went on-air and announced that Bin Laden had been captured… dead.
Here I sit, 10 years later. 3,652 days have passed, and yet the thoughts and memories of everything bring it all right back like it was just 10 days ago. I shed a few tears writing this, and channeled bits and pieces of emotion that I would be perfectly happy never feeling again. I pray that my daughter never has to experience anything like what we went through on that day. No matter how rude and inconsiderate the rest of this country may be, no matter how many more tragedies or attacks may or may not take place, the fact remains that I love my country. I am an AMERICAN. Nothing, and nobody, can or will ever take that from me.
I humbly dedicate this to everyone we lost 10 years ago this morning. We will never forget.