I was moving into an apartment in Redondo Beach and was excited about my new digs. It was September 8, 2001. My phone wasn’t yet connected, nor was my TV. I was reachable by cell phone only, but I’m weird about it — I hate hearing it ring, and I’m prone to answering it in my sleep and carrying on lengthy conversations unless my ringer is off. So it’s always off.
A few days later, Tuesday morning, I awoke to the sound of phones ringing off the hook — just not my phone. Ringing was coming from all around — the building next door, the floors above me and they echoed in my building’s courtyard. Sans landline, half awake and with my cell ringer off, I wondered for a split-second if I was really hearing my alarm going off instead. Nope, definitely phones.
Still not knowing what was happening but not being able to fall back asleep, either, I got up, had breakfast, showered and got ready to head off to work a little early. Before walking out the door, I grabbed my cell phone and only then looked at the display. Missed calls galore.
My mom had tried reaching me numerous times and when we finally spoke, I thought she was exaggerating when she said a tower had collapsed. Surely she had her facts off. I wish this had been the case.
This was September 11.
I went to work to watch one of our many agency TVs, took everything in and could not believe my eyes. Tears flowed as though a faucet had been left running. To this day, the footage affects me the same way. I can’t imagine losing someone that day, being on one of those planes or witnessing the devastation first hand.
I can’t imagine what it was like for the first responders, the volunteers and for those who worked tirelessly at Ground Zero — day in and day out. I can’t imagine the weight on our government, the scrambling, the confusion. I can’t imagine being a resident of New York City and seeing your beloved town come under attack. I can’t imagine working at the Pentagon and having an airliner come crashing through the halls and walls of freedom and national defense. The reality of that day will be something most of us can never fully grasp. We only have the footage, the memory and the hope that we never see it again.
Many of us will never forget where we were when 9/11 happened, and many of us remember the day in our own way: an American flag flown from the front porch post, quiet prayers during the day, watching the events through documentaries, the news and other programming. We all remember differently, but we remember. And seeing a country realize the importance of not forgetting is something I am truly thankful for.