It was the most perfect morning – slightly warm, slightly cool, a deep blue sky, and no clouds to be seen. The beginning of one of those fresh, invigorating days that would normally send scores of people outside to parks, walking trails, and bike paths as the day progressed. After a long, hot Nashville summer, this day was long overdue and seriously welcome.
But then he came out of his office and said a plane had hit the World Trade Center. It seemed odd and shocking, a horrible accident. Within minutes, though, we would learn it was no accident at all. And as our minds struggled to grasp what we were seeing, hearing, and reading about – one thing we knew for certain – our lives, our Country would never be the same.
2,977 innocent people died on September 11, 2001 when 19 terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners. 2,977 people woke up that morning as they did every day prior to that. Some ate breakfast, some rushed to get ready for work or head to the airport to catch a flight, some kissed their families goodbye and headed out the door. None could have imagined they would die that day.
Now, eleven years later, I can still close my eyes and see the image of the Towers collapsing so clearly. The air still gets caught in my throat as I think of lives – the people – who perished in those buildings. The first responders who died while trying to rescue others. I still get goosebumps when I think of the brave people on flight 93 who, once they understood what was about to happen, chose to do everything in their power to stop another plane from crashing into a building. I wonder how scared they must have been, yet marvel at how they put one foot in front of the other and did what had to be done. And what about those in the Pentagon – one of the most secure buildings in our country – who lost their lives in this unfathomable act of terror? It is still hard to accept the magnitude of the loss experienced that day.
Do you remember the days following September 11? How we came together as one Nation and joined hands in prayer? Race, religion, nor political affiliation mattered. Remember how we held our breath and cheered as, one by one, people were miraculously rescued from the rubble. We cried together, hugged each other, held doors for strangers, gave up seats on subways, trains and buses, shared meals, and prayed together like never before. Oh, how we prayed.
We also vowed to never forget – to always remember those who died that day.