Each year September 11th comes and goes with a varying number of remembrances, tributes, moments of silence, and television specials dedicated to the events that occurred, and people who tragically lost their lives on that sunny and seemingly perfect morning in 2001.

For Wendy and me, September 11 holds a difficult but special place in our hearts. We did not personally lose anyone that day, nor were ever directly in harm's way. However, as much of the country was, and especially those of us in Washington, DC and New York, we were impacted by the sights, sounds, and smells of the events. It was, unfortunately, an event that helped define our generation, and a moment in our lives that represented the huge loss of youthful innocence. In a matter of just a few hours, we were forever altered, affected inside. We had been quickly and forcefully changed from a few recently engaged kids starting our exciting lives together in a new place away from the friendly confines of home, into two adults that suddenly needed to worry about terrorism, suspicious packages, color coded threat levels, see something say something, and the torrent of related terms that have flooded our vernacular.

The further we get from the cruel strikes the more distant I'd assumed the memories would get, but that simply hasn't been the case.

On the day of the attacks, after leaving my office just two blocks from The White House, several co-workers and I departed by car to navigate the maze-like streets of Washington, DC in an attempt to reach our homes and loved ones. Our path was consistently met with roadblocks and closures on roads that would have taken us too close to the black smoke billowing from the gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon. I can still vividly recall the people I rode with in the car, many of our conversations, the clothes I wore, even how hot it was getting as the morning crawled towards afternoon. But above all else, the visual impact of the thick black smoke in the air, and the toxic smell of burning as I approached our apartment are all so distinct that I'll likely never forget it.

Looking back on it as a memory that is now 12 years old, I'm surprised it's still so strongly imprinted on my mind. But remembering it as the single traumatic event that so drastically shaped our lives as a relatively newly independent couple on our own, I'm surprised that any of the memory of that day has been able to fade.

As painful and hard to experience as September 11th was, the days immediately following September 11th breathed life and hope into our very fragile psyches. The outpouring of patriotism in almost every aspect of daily life was apparent. Though conversations were somber, and most interactions quiet and brief, it seemed every house on every street displayed some manner of American flag or other support for "U.S.A." Highway overpasses were adorned with patriotic flair, flags, and messages of strength hastily spray painted in red and blue on large white sheets, while little red, white, and blue ribbons appeared on the jackets and shirts of nearly everyone. It was a unity in our country unlike I had ever felt before, and unlike anything I've felt since.

One of our brightest memories of the aftermath of September 11th happened more by chance than anything else. Wendy and I were driving past the Pentagon on the evening when the firefighters unfurled the large American flag made famous in this photo.


Photo Credit: John McDonnell / The Washington Post

In a time before smartphone cameras and the 24x7 connected lifestyle, we have no photos of the event, no Facebook posts or Tweets to go along with it, only the personal memories of the moderate feeling of triumph in watching several of the first responders several days removed from the fateful day, take action to let the world know that they would not be deterred. It was an extremely proud moment and one that has absolutely stuck with us over the years.

As of this year most people under the age of roughly 17 years old will have no significant firsthand knowledge or memories of the day itself or the days following September 11th. However, the feelings, emotions, and lessons, even of those who do not possess personal experiences of the day, are all important and beneficial to be shared.

Talking about, writing about, and thinking about the memories of the September 11th attacks are equal parts therapeutic and difficult, but absolutely and 100% necessary to ensure my memories of that day and the following days will always feel fresh. I owe it to the people that were touched by the events in a far more direct manner than I was, and I feel I owe it to the 2,977 innocent people who lost their lives that day.

Comments 3

Comments

Anna Sansiveri
9/11/2013 at 2:08 PM
I absolutely remember that day. I was still in highschool and the principle came on the loudspeaker and said "The united states in under attack. They have attacked New York City and Washington DC. All students will remain in their classrooms and turn on CNN until further notice." I had just met President Bush who was in town reading to the elementary school, and we just had a hurricane so there was no power in our house for 5 days. We bought a mini black and white tv and watched the coverage through the static while trying to reach our friends and family in NY, NJ, and DC. That weak we learned some of the hijackers lived in our town and I learned to fly airplanes at the same airport. Our town was crushed with guilt. That's when I knew I would have to join the military. I'd thought about it for a few years, but that was when I knew. All these years, and too many deceased friends later, I'm still proudly serving on active duty.
It was truely a day that changed our lives.
9/11/2013 at 4:05 PM
The memories of that day will never fade from anyone our age. We both still remember nearly every minute of that day. As my grandmother said, this was our Pearl Harbor...
Sheila
9/12/2013 at 1:41 AM
It was election day in NYC and I planned to vote before heading into the office, so I was running a bit behind schedule. We live in Soho and I was drying my hair when the first plane hit. We were about half a mile from the Trade Center and the impact was tremendous. It shook the whole neighborhood. I ran out into the bedroom and said to my husband "WTF??" We ran to the south end of the loft and flung open the windows and saw the smoke billowing out of the tower. All that morning we alternated between watching the towers and watching the TV for information. We were standing on our fire escape when the second plane hit the second tower. We didn't see the plane, but saw the result: a huge fireball that seemed like something out of a movie. At the time we thought it was a consequence of the first plane, maybe a gas main exploding. We never imagined at the time that it could be terrorism. We also never thought to run, and only realized later that getting out of the city would have been sensible under the circumstances. I slept in my clothes for three weeks after the attack and for over a year afterward I would flinch every time a plane flew overhead. It was a long time before I got to the point that I didn't thik about the attack every day.
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