Sunday will mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11—a day of unspeakable horror and unparalleled heroism.
The day was clear and bright—a beautiful blue sky draped the city that never sleeps. By mid-morning, the Manhattan skyline became shrouded in smoke.
We now know that the aircraft which crashed into the first tower of the World Trade Center was traveling at a speed of approximately 586 miles per hour—its fuel tanks filled with 10,000 gallons of jet fuel. Twelve weeks after the terrorist atrocity there was at least one fire still burning in the rubble making it the longest burning structural fire in history. We never, before that day, thought of passenger planes as weapons.
There is still an ache in my heart ten years after and tears are streaming down my face as I write these words.
Tom Brokaw commented, “Almost as soon as the Twin Towers came down the flags went up. They began to grow in every crevice of America. Someone said the sight of them is like countless bandages of patriotism covering a nation’s wounds.”
One of the iconic photographs that emerged was that of a small blonde-haired girl atop her father’s shoulders at a candlelight vigil; her right arm outstretched holding a small American flag.
The television networks had small images, called “bugs”, of the flag superimposed on the screen for weeks after the attacks. Fox News maintained that image for many months after all the others discontinued its use.
Part of the fourth stanza of “America The Beautiful” reads: “O beautiful for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years. Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.” Dan Rather wept on the David Letterman show as he recited these words. He noted, “We can never sing that song again the same way.”
Peggy Noonan writing for the Wall Street Journal noted, “When you ask New Yorkers now what they remember, they start with something big—the first news report, the phone call in which someone said, ‘Turn on the TV.’ But then they go to the kind of small thing that when you first saw it you had no idea it would stay in your mind forever. The look on the face of a young Asian woman on Sixth Avenue in the 20s, as she looked upward. The votive candles on the street and the spontaneous shrines that popped up, the pictures of saints. The Xeroxed signs that covered every street pole downtown. A man or a woman in a family picture from a wedding or a birthday or bar mitzvah. ‘Have you seen Carla? Last seen Tuesday morning in Windows on the World.’”
She continues, “They tell us to get over it, they say to move on, and they mean it well: We can't bring an air of tragedy into the future. But I will never get over it. To get over it is to get over the guy who stayed behind on a high floor with his friend who was in a wheelchair. To get over it is to get over the woman by herself with the sign in the darkness: ‘America You Are Not Alone.’ To get over it is to get over the guys who ran into the fire and not away from the fire.”
“You've got to be loyal to pain sometimes to be loyal to the glory that came out of it.”
E. J Dionne, in a September 7, 2011 screed for the Washington Post, suggests it is time to leave 9/11 behind. "After we honor the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we need to leave the day behind. Al-Qaeda is a dangerous enemy. But our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies."
From the men and women who began that dreadful Tuesday morning sitting at their desk or in an airport to the brave passengers on Flight 93 who defied their murderers to prevent the murder of others on the ground to the rescuers who stared death in the face, we will weep and offer our deepest sympathy. To the children, spouses and friends of those who left them that day we say you are not alone.
On Sunday, September 16, 2001, during a two-hour special presentation of Fox News Sunday, Tony Snow offered a moving commentary:
"Good and evil almost never express themselves as harshly and clearly as they did Tuesday morning. People we don't know slaughtered people we do and they did it with contemptuous calm. Yet, even as clouds of dust and smoke rose from the rubble, even as family members tortured by hope and doubt took to the streets with pictures and pleas, even as mobs celebrated in Gaza, Cairo, and Baghdad, something shook itself sluggishly to life and that something is a sense of ourselves.”
“Kindness flourished amid the flames: a couple carried a disabled man down sixty-eight flights of stairs, a priest crouched to give last rites as a mighty tower collapsed, and the hand of God closed about him. A man and woman, their hope gone, held each other and leaped. A solitary candle, a flag, a tear. These are the tokens of our renewal.”
“The United States had a spirit before it had a name; one of faith and freedom, of ambition tempered by piety. We once were a nation of neighbors and friends, we are again today. We once were a nation of hardship-tested dreamers, we are again today. We once were a nation under God and we are again today.”
“Our enemies attacked one nation, they will encounter another. For they underestimated us. Today in our grief and in our rage, our determination and hope, we've summoned what's best and noblest in us; the kinship that awes our enemies and friends alike. We are again Americans."
On October 8, 2001 President Bush addressed the nation. In his speech he revealed, “I recently received a touching letter that says a lot about the state of America in these difficult times, a letter from a fourth-grade girl with a father in the military. ‘As much as I don’t want my dad to fight,’ she wrote, ‘I’m willing to give him to you.’ This is a precious gift. The greatest she could give. This young girl knows what America is all about.”