9/11: What did you do?

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.  The day means something different to each American.  Somber, bereaved, ardent, resilient, irate, and healing are just some of the adjectives I would use to describe that fateful day.

I have kept a journal since I was 9 years old; detailing just  about every important moment of experience in my life. But when I looked to see what I had written ten years ago on September 11, 2001, there was no entry. I was shocked but not surprised.  Comprehending such violence and death was no easy task and writing about it would have been an admission that I simply was not ready to except at that time.

I didn’t need a journal to remember how I felt, or where I was when our nation was attacked. The events from that day are seared into my memory. I was working at a television station in Youngstown, Ohio. It was just 140 miles away from where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 40 passengers and crew were killed as the fought to take back their hijacked aircraft. I was assigned to getting reaction from family members, friends or neighbors so my photographer and I headed to the local churches.

Of the churches we could fit inside, there was a strange combination of peace and grief. I didn’t find any families of the victims from Flight 93.  But every single person I interviewed felt a connection to the passengers on that plane – as Americans. Much of my night was spent consoling mean, women and children of all different backgrounds.  That’s when my story turned into one of unity. How despite such a horrific act, resolve and true American grit still rang true.

In honor of the 2977 lives lost, the Museum of Mobile was one of U.S. 30 cities to mark the anniversary of 9/11with an exhibit called, “Recovery: The World Trade Center Recovery Operation.” The exhibit is a documentary of the recovery efforts to locate human remains, personal objects and material evidence following the deadly attacks. With over 50 artifacts and photographs plus interpretive text on pieces found near the World Trade Center, the exhibit is meant to evoke emotion…but solely for healing.

My 9/11 Tribute

This year, I decided to exercise my freedom —literally. I ran in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K in downtown Mobile.  More than 3,000 people joined me…. runners, walkers and bikers alike. The event honored the courage and dedication of our first responders. But also commemorated the legacy of Stephen Siller, one of the 342 firefighters who laid down his life on 9/11.

The course started at the Battleship USS Alabama Memorial Park in Mobile, ran along the causeway, through the Bankhead tunnel, west on Government Street, then east on Dauphin Street to finish at Bienville Square.

Throughout the race, you could hear cheers, chants of, “God Bless America” and words of encouragement to keep pushing through. It was an ironic mixture of sadness and joy. Sad because of all the families forever changed. But the joy I felt was reminiscent to the unity I witnessed following the attacks.  Only this time, there was no death and destruction…only peace.

Each participant was given a medal at the finish line. It simply read: September 11, 2001 Remember.  I surly will.


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