9/11 the somber hey 19

9/11/2001 New York City as seen from Brooklyn

It’s September 11, 2020. It is the 19th unbelievable anniversary of 9/11. One of the things that 9/11 taught us, as journalist Harry Smith on NBC’s Today Show just pointed out on the morning news is in this great country if we look, there is more that unites us versus divides us, and we learned that from 9/11. He also remarked that it’s hard for us to see it now and it is. We are a country divided. We can’t remain a country divided and this somber anniversary is the best example why.

United we stand, divided we fall. Last year when I wrote about 9/11, I remarked about the offensive plans that didn’t happen of the current president to meet with the Taliban at Camp David just before 9/11. I was thinking about that this morning and reflecting on 2020 to date. We don’t have a leader, we have a circus ringmaster. That’s not a leader. And on this 19th anniversary of 9/11, I pray for a country united and for real leadership. Every American regardless of race, creed, political persuasion, or color deserves this.

Now this 9/11 I am also going to pause and remember two men I went to college with. I’m not going to be some kind of weird death hypocrite and say I really knew them or they were my close friends because they weren’t. They were both people I met a couple of times, but people I never really knew who were close to people important to me to this very day. They lost their lives in 9/11.

Doug Cherry worked for AON. I remember when I found out that he had died in the trade center because I worked for then Wachovia Securities, and AON had a large office literally across the hall. Someone I knew from that office had oddly remembered I went to Ohio Weslyan for a while. So they told me when they learned the names of those who had died in their company. But that wasn’t on 9/11 that was in the days that followed. I remember afterwards the days that followed when you started to see the roll call of names of people lost. I remember when I heard about Doug I kind of felt old and felt my own mortality for the first time. He was my class, and although he wasn’t a close friend or somebody I even really knew back then, we went to a small school so you remembered the faces even if you didn’t remember the people. That was the case with Ted Luckett. He was the class ahead, and again somebody I didn’t know but remembered. But I remembered back then is he liked to sail — there were a lot of guys who went to Ohio Weslyan who were amazing sailors. Even on America’s Cup crews.

February 26, 1993 The garage bomb terrorist attack
on the World Trade Center
.

As I write this it is 8:46 AM. This is when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. It was at this moment I was pulling into my garage back then where I worked for then Wachovia Securities in Conshohocken. I was listening to the radio. I remember the tears just starting to roll down my face because I knew, I knew they (terrorists) came back because I had walked out of the World Trade Center shopping concourse in 1993 when they blew up the garage. And when I say when, as the bomb detonated I was standing on the sidewalk outside looking at Century 21. If life has been different I might still have been working in New York City on September 11, 2001.

I also remember as I walked into my office and all the brokers were riveted to television screens in their offices and their computers, at that point in time most people didn’t believe those were terrorist attacks. They just thought like a small plane had gone into the trade center. It was a crazy surreal morning as the news started to unfold. It’s crazy how clearly I can still remember it. I think this is like it was for our parents the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. You remember where you were and what you were doing.

So it’s been 19 years, what have we learned? I found this blog post of someone’s memories of 9/11. Please read it. Someone else I went to school with and don’t remember. They were fraternity brothers with Doug Cherry. It’s heartbreaking to read.

This year we are still in the grips of COVID19, so the ceremonies for 9/11 are very different. They are smaller and they are not reading the rollcall of lives lost. So today we all have to remember those we knew or knew of who were lost.

One of the other things I remember on this day 19 years ago, two sisters I grew up with who were close childhood family friends and still are. One, at the time, worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The other I think worked for Marsh and McLennan at the time but can’t remember for sure, but she did work somewhere in the World Trade Center. I remember being in a panic for days until I found out they were OK. They were both out of state visiting their parents.

So it is true, we never forget this day and never will. But what have we learned? I think we need to pay it forward as a country in memory of all of those first responders and others who lost their lives. We need to be better versions of ourselves. We need to come together as a country. We need peace and less racial divide. Is that possible? I don’t know. But we can try.

I don’t really have that much else to say about 9/11 today. I am going to list all the other columns I have written over the years since I started this blog.

Wishing you peace on a somber day.

9/11 written September 11, 2012

9/11 2012: from the air

9/11: 13 years. what have we learned? September 11, 2014

remembering 9/11 September 11, 2015

9/11 : 17 years. never forget. September 11, 2018

on the eve of 9/11 September 9, 2019

#NeverForget

9/11 Memorial in New Jersey

remembering 9/11

 Sept. 11, 2015, is the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and United Airlines Flight 93’s crash in the field in Shanksville, Somerset County. This date has special significance to every American, and intense personal significance to far too many individuals who lost friends and loved ones. 

But September 11, wasn’t the first time terrorists visited the World Trade Center. In truth, Feb. 26, 1993. was the date of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. I worked in New York at that time at an office located downtown in the financial district at 44 Wall Street.

On that day, I had accompanied an office friend to the World Trade Center to grab an early lunch and to check out some stores in the shopping concourse. We were back outside the Trade Center buildings, getting ready to cross the street, when suddenly the ground shook and moved. I remember that we were looking directly across the street at Century 21, a department store in Lower Manhattan. Then something happened that rarely happens in New York: Everything went eerily still and quiet. We looked up at what we first thought were snowflakes beginning to float and fall from the sky. After all, it was February.

Then car alarms began to go off one by one like the cacophony of many distorted bells. The snowflakes, we soon discovered, were in reality ashes. 

People began yelling and screaming. It became very confusing and chaotic all at once, like someone flipped a switch to “on.” At first, we both felt rooted to the sidewalk, unable to move. I remember feeling a sense of panic at the unknown. We had absolutely no idea what had happened, and hurried back to our office. Reaching it, we were greeted by worried coworkers who told us that someone had set off a bomb underground in the World Trade Center garage. 

I will never forget the crazy kaleidoscope of images, throughout that afternoon, of all the people who were related to or knew people in my office who sought refuge in our office after walking down the innumerable flights of steps in the dark to exit the World Trade Center Towers. They arrived with soot all over their faces, hands and clothes. They all wore zombie looks of shock, disbelief and panic.

Of course, the oddest thing about the first terrorist attack on New York City is that I don’t remember much lasting fuss about it. I do remember that President Bill Clinton was newly sworn into office, but I don’t remember him or his wife Hillary coming to visit New York after the attack. (And now she is “Hillary for America” and wants to be President? Where was she then as our then First Lady?) 

Everything was back to normal in Lower Manhattan in about a month, maybe two. After a while, unless you had worked in New York, or lived in New York, you simply forgot about this “incident.”

  
  
So, on the morning of 9/11, as I pulled into my office building’s garage and listened to the breaking news on the radio announcing that a plane had struck the World Trade Center, tears began to run down my face unbidden. I knew in my heart of hearts what happened. I said to myself, “Oh no. They came back.”

I remember picking up my cell phone to call my father, whom I knew to be, at that time, on an Amtrak train bound for New York City. I remember him telling me it was fine and he’d be fine. I wanted him to get off in New Jersey and take a train back to Philadelphia. But the train was already pretty much past all the stations and getting ready to go into the tunnel to New York. That very thought terrified me. To this day, I still do not understand why Amtrak did not stop those last trains from going into New York City as the news of the World Trade Center attacks first broke.

I next remember getting in the elevator and getting off on my office floor to find people clustered around television sets and radios. And the news kept getting worse: first one plane, then a second, then a third, and then a fourth. 

The images and news just didn’t stop. Camera cuts from lower Manhattan to Washington to Somerset County. They are images that have to be ingrained in everyone’s mind forever like indelible ink. 

It took a couple of days for my father and brother-in-law (who had already been in New York on business) to get out of the city, but eventually they got home safely with many stories to tell of what New York was like in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. A lot of people weren’t so lucky. They never saw their loved ones again after that fateful morning. Many people in the Philadelphia and greater Main Line area lost friends, coworkers and loved ones. 

On September 11, I knew people who were lost, but fortunately I didn’t lose any loved ones. I have friends who did and who lost co-workers and staff they were responsible for. I remember for a brief time it seemed we were all a little nicer to each other, and politicians actually seemed to come together as one and grieve as a nation grieved. 

But here we are fourteen years later. I have only seen the site twice where the World Trade Center once stood proudly. The first time was about a year after the attacks. I remember a distinct pit in my stomach and looked away from the car window. I was in Washington a few years ago, and had the same intense, awful feeling in my stomach as we drove on the highway past the Pentagon. 

In 2015 we are a country divided by often extreme partisan politics. Our economy is only so-so, and the government seems skewed even more every day towards special interests. Middle Eastern immigrants are flooding the shores of any country that will help them escape the tyranny and bloodshed that is all they know. 

In Chester County local governments are letting oil and gas companies like Sunoco and residential developers destroy where we call home so they can rape the land for their gain and profit. Small potatoes I am sure to some when compared to 9/11, but to me they are two more examples of life off-balance. Other things include the news. I am and always have been a news junkie, but find myself watching and reading it less because it often seems as if it’s all bad news.

Face it, we are ALL different after 9/11, but I have to say we have become a country divided. Over everything. From the town to town, city to city, state to state to Washingtn D.C., we have become a country of extremism – especially politically. We are all still Americans, but are we always proud of that? Hyper liberal, hyper conservative, what happened to the people in the middle? Who cares about the people in the middle?

When did it become a crime to disagree with the status quo? To disagree with elected officials? To wish for better in the gray shades of a desperate recession? To be just a little bit different?

A country still at war, at war with itself inside our own borders. Who will do the healing if not each one of us ourselves? Who do we believe in? Who can we believe in? Can we hope for anything or is hope still just an overused word in our everyday vernacular? We have people who  shoot up churches in Charleston, murder a reporter and her cameraman in cold blood in a live shot, people who randomly shoot up shopping malls and movie theaters, and even worse the ugliness I remember from my childhood a race riots.

A few years ago now I rode in my friend Barry’s balloon shaped like a giant American flag on 9/11. We soared over parts of Chester County. It was such am amazing and peaceful yet exhilarating and powerful feeling. A great way to remember 9/11.

Life must go on and time can’t stand still, but all in all I can’t help but wonder: What have we learned since about our country and about ourselves? Fourteen years after 9/11 what have we learned and what have we forgotten? What do we need to remember?

Simply said, as a country we need to do better. From local to national we need to do better, to be better. We need to vote smarter and field better candidates for public office.  On every level of government, even at the most local we need fewer apologists in office, and more who are actually accountable.

Finally today, take a minute and remember our first responders. They are every day heroes we can believe in.

Thanks for stopping by.   #NeverForget