This year, September 11 commemorates the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The assault resulted in over 3,000 deaths and it was nothing short of a miracle that more lives weren’t lost when you consider that the Twin Towers officed 430 companies with an estimated 50,000 employees working in the two buildings on a typical workday.
This day in history was so shocking and incredulous that most people can tell you where they were, who they were with, and how they learned of the attacks. Everyone has a unique story. Here are a few shared by people in our villages.
The events of that day unfolded tragically. We watched the news and realized these carefully planned attacks on our country were acts of war. I was the mayor at the time, due to the current mayor resigning. We gathered that evening in front of the parish center and prayed for all those who lost their lives and their families. We prayed for our country, peace and justice. It seemed like prayer was the most important action we could take at the time. It is these prayers that brought us back to the center of our being.
As manager of Casa Encantada B&B Inn in Taos, I was serving breakfast to a large bicycle touring group when one of my staff burst in the door telling us to turn on the TV news. She said one of the Twin Towers had been hit by an airplane. As we turned the news on, we watched the second airplane hit. We had to let our guests know. Some were from New York City. It was so very sad to watch our guests making phone calls in attempts to reach loved ones. Some were trying to get flights out of Albuquerque. Some rented cars for the long agonizing drive home as they wondered about family members. I will never forget.
It was a beautiful day, Tuesday, September 11, 2001… I was teaching 4th grade in Lafayette, Louisiana. School had recently started, and my lesson was “An Eye-Opener of a New Year.” We had dissected sheep eyeballs, researched eyes, learned about professions in the optical field, ways to draw eyes, and more. My daughter, Emilie, was visiting from Austin, Texas and my 90-year-old mom was living with us. I had a long lunch break and decided to go home to have lunch with my family. Mom and Emilie were staring at the TV. A friend of Emilie’s had called and said, “Turn on the TV!” It was unbelievable, like a horror movie, but the difference was… IT WAS REAL! I returned to school and the principal told each teacher to tell the students about the situation and that he would speak to the whole school over the intercom. My mind was racing, trying to figure it out… what would I say, how to say it? Don’t say too much… or too little. I went ahead with the lesson and afterwards, the words came. Their eyes were wide, so innocent. Little did they know that the world had changed forever on that day. Indeed, ”An Eye-Opener of a New Year.”
I was in a boardroom in Cincinnati waiting for colleagues from New York City to arrive for a meeting. We had the TV on and saw the towers hit in almost real time. My colleagues entered the room ashen-faced and immediately rented cars to drive “home.” It took them twice as long as it should have and they had trouble entering the city or getting in contact with their families, as most networks were down. Many antennas and cell towers were on the roof of the World Trade Center. I worked in the media business and needed to stay at work until later in the day. As soon as I was permitted to leave the office, I left to pick up my daughters.
I managed a fly in-fly out wilderness lodge in the Arctic Circle in Alaska. There were no roads and no way to get there, except by aircraft. On September 11, 2001, I was looking forward to a visit from my son who had flown into Fairbanks the night before from the lower 48. He was supposed to fly up that afternoon. He called to tell me about the attacks and said that all planes were grounded. He stayed in Fairbanks for another three days. When he finally made it to the Arctic Circle, we were very relieved and happy to share that time together.
Please take a moment on September 11 to remember those who lost their lives 20 years ago, and to honor and acknowledge all of those who serve our country every day to keep us safe.