Where Were You?

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Where were you?

September 11, 2001. Where were you when the world stopped turning? Do you remember what was happening? Do you remember who you were with? Do you remember the first time you heard the news, saw the TV footage, and felt your heart stop?

With a tear on your face and a lump in your throat, do you remember seeing the black smoke fill the sky as you stood in shock and felt the pain pierce your heart on that cold September day?

Where were you?

It was less than a month after I had turned seven. I was in the second grade at Little Cypress-Elementary, a student of Mrs. Sonnier’s class.

The day started normally for me, as it did for everyone else. Perhaps I was oblivious, perhaps time has blocked out painful memories, but by 10:28 a.m. I wasn’t aware the face of my nation had changed forever.

It was a Tuesday. Tuesday’s were ballet days. I had gone to dance per my normal routine schedule, yet something was different. The teachers were acting different. The parents were acting different. I danced my heart out as usual, but something about that ballet class was simply different.

I honestly don’t remember who picked me up from dance, whether it was my mom or my dad, but that doesn’t matter. I got home from dance that evening, walked from the garage down the back hallway of our house, and straight into the living room.

I stood, frozen, next to my dad’s chair as Fox News displayed the most horrific images I had ever seen in my life.

I walked a little further into my living room. My dad turned to me with a solemn look in his eyes and said “I need to explain something to you.”

Where were you?

I sat down at the foot of our couch, my usual spot, and kept staring. I kept trying to wrap my mind around what was happening. My small, seven-year-old mind kept trying to figure out if what I saw was truly a reality.

My dark hazel eyes quickly turned red as they swelled with tears. My heart kept stopping. It was real. It had happened. My world shattered.

Where were you?

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda coordinated four terrorist attacks on the United States.

Between the hours of 8:46 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., United Airlines flight 11 and American Airlines flight 175 crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth plane, United Airlines flight 93, was headed for Washington D.C., but instead crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

A total of 19 hijackers used mace, pepper spray, tear gas, and weapons to overcome the flight crew and passengers. Chilling records report people calling home with the words “We’re not going to make it. I love you.”

At the Twin Towers, people called 911 stating the rooms were filling with smoke, asking if first responders were going to make it in time, and if they were going to die.

2,996 people were killed, over 6,000 injured.

Nearly all were civilians. 343 were firefighters. 72 were law enforcement. 55 were military personnel. The terrorist organization successfully caused the largest attack on first responders in United States history.

The United States was hit in the heart.

A searing pain I can only imagine resembled that of Pearl Harbor, the United States would never be the same.

Where were you?

On September 12 I woke up, still in shock, and pulled out a white t-shirt with a small American flag in the middle of it and the words “Proud to be an American” printed under it. Somehow I inherently knew I had to wear it that day.

Everything was different. Mrs. Sonnier was filled with both compassion and caution as her class of seven and eight year olds attempted to wrap the events of the previous day their little minds. One student, James Williams, said he heard President Bush was going to declare 9/11 as Patriot’s Day in the United States. I sat in my desk quietly thinking “Good. This is a day no one should ever forget.”

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Where were you?

As with the rest of the nation, and most of the world, I was filled with emotion to this day I cannot fully comprehend. I was upset. I was angry. I was heart-broken. I was filled with patriotism. I wanted to make a difference.

For weeks after, it was always the little things I did that seemed to have a profound meaning behind them. I distinctly remember one day getting ready to leave for gymnastics. I came out of my room and my dad stood still, staring at the TV. The word Baghdad was printed in large letters on a map of Iraq, I’m sure surrounded by other cities such as Mosul, Basrah, and Ramadi, but I only remember Baghdad.

I looked up my dad and said “Look daddy, I wore my red leotard and blue shorts today with my red scruncci today. I’m doing it in support of our nation, in support of Uncle Jimmy. People need to know I back our government.”

My dad looked down at me and smiled. I knew he was proud of me, but in that moment, I was more focused on showing the world that what mattered to me was God, family, country.

Where were you?

In the grander scheme of things, my wearing red, white, and blue to gymnastics did not make a difference, but to me it was important.

However, there were those who answered the call. There were those who sought to make the difference. There are the big names we know who sought to answer the call – Pat Tillman and Chris Kyle. There were those, like my uncle, who were apart of Desert Storm and continued to answer the call. But then there are those lesser known people. The one’s we know only in our towns who became filled that act of valor.

Those like Lance Cpl Shane Lee Goldman and Private First Class (posthumously promoted to Lance Cpl) Chance Phelps who enlisted and paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Anbar Province of Iraq just four days apart.

The story of Goldman is one I’ll never forget. For a reason I have yet to understand, it has always stuck with me, always impacted me. His sister was one of my dance teachers. It was his dream to be a Marine. He said he never wanted to let his family down. He didn’t.

Goldman and Phelps are not alone. They stand with a band of brothers and sisters who all answered the call and served. Uncommon valor became a common virtue among these Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines alike.

Where were you?

15 years ago on that cold September day, the world stopped turning.

15 years ago, 9/11 became a day that changed the face of this world and the way many choose to see it today.

15 years ago, America was struck, America was reminded freedom isn’t free, and America became stronger.

Where were you?

To those who fell, and to those who carry on, we will never forget.

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