I remember the phone call with my best friend...that lasted the entire day, holding our breaths as the day unfolded. I remember, watching together as the reports came in of the Pentagon. Of the crashed plane in a field. Watching live, as the second plane hit. Watching those towers burn, then fall, full of people born of all walks of life, just going about their regular days, living their respective lives, with all the trials, tribulations, joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams, families extinguished in a series of acts of pure hate.
I remember the tears as they return to my eyes so many years later. I will never forget the words of the broadcasters - Anderson, Diane, so many others - doing their best to maintain composure as we all witnessed our world forever change, feeling helpless to stop those lives from being lost.
I remember watching the footage of the joy spreading through the hate-infected masses in the home countries of those who attacked, reveling in the pride of the unexpected success of their hate-fueled task. I remember struggling as hate welled up inside me, struggling against its will not to become them.
On this day, for the rest of my life, I choose to remember...the lives and hearts and souls lost on that day. Each individual person, be they a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a husband, a fiancee, a wife, a child, a teen, a grandmother. No matter who they were, they were someone...who deserved to live, who deserved a life, who deserved to be loved.
I remember the image during a morning show in the days following. A picture someone took as they headed down the stairs of one of the towers, of a firefighter, ax in hand, running UP the stairs as everyone stepped aside to let him through. I remember they aired that picture on national news, determined to find his family. Someone who knew him. To ensure his family, friends, loved ones KNEW what an amazingly brave man he was on this horrific day, like so many others. It worked...and his face is forever seared into my memory. I used to remember his name, but I've lost that...and it hurts.
I choose to remember all the Responders who fought the war they saw raging in front of them, not without fear, but in spite of it. Running head first into the dangers they knew and dangers unknown, not because they wanted to be heroes, but because they WERE. They were men and women, just like us. Fallible. Weak. Broken. With families, friends, lives just like ours. They go to work every day knowing so many dangers they may face, but never expecting something like the horrors of that day. But they are made of a fiber so many of us lack or keep hidden. A resolve that can be rallied when most of us want to shrivel and hide.
Being Brooklyn born, despite all my years in Atlanta, I am still a New Yorker at heart. Our ties go back to family members who came to America from Ireland, Italy. It will forever be HOME to me, just as Atlanta is my HOME after that.
So many people lost their lives in the respective cities that day...and so many of us lost our innocence. We were a collective that day...no matter where we were from...and for so many days after, as we tried to make sense of things. How hate can become SO powerful. We REFUSED to let it enter our hearts. DESPITE our differences, we were ONE. We were Americans. Black, white, hispanic, asian, Muslim, Christian, Pagan, Euro-centric, Appalachian bred, Canadian, Native. It didn't matter. We became united. A force of strength and pride and love, What happened to us? Where did it go? How can we have let the lessons of that day slip away to the point that we are at odds and each others' throats over political, religious, and social differences? Is that the legacy the losses of that day have left us?
For those who lived through and witnessed that horrific day and the weeks that followed, I challenge you to remember. Choose to remember the way you felt that day. The next day. The weeks after. Choose to remember...that we all are individuals. We share this world. Together....and, together, we can make it strong again. If we choose to remember...