To the point week of 9-8-11


IT WAS A TUESDAY. NOTHING special. Just another day in September. Tuesdays are normally pretty intense around the newspaper office, because we are getting ready for our Wednesday press day. On that particular Tuesday, I was moving around the community, gathering news and information that would be included in the Thursday, September 13th, 2001 edition of the Vevay Newspapers.

Then, it all changed.

Office manager Ginny Leap called me. A plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center, she reported. Being near my house, I drove by and turned on the television to see a building on fire and a street filled with people watching history unfold.

At that point, everyone assumed it was a horrible accident.

We were wrong.

The image of the second plane striking the second tower is something that time will never erase from our memories. When it accelerated as it hit, we immediately knew that this was no accident.

We were under attack.

Word spread of a third plane crashing into the Pennsylvania countryside. Had that plane been headed for another target? Would there be more? A plane has hit the Pentagon?

What was going on?

Just when we thought it couldn’t be worse, it got worse.

With alarming silence, suddenly the first tower began to pancake down onto itself, one floor collapsing onto the one below, until the weight at the top caused one huge implosion.

Steel and debris fell to the New York streets below, and a nation stood in horrified silence.

How could this be?

Who would do such a thing?

Ten years later, we still ask some of those questions.

Who could have imagined the past 10 years of our country’s history when they got out of bed the morning of September 11th, 2001. Who would have thought that by the end of that day we would see images of people jumping from windows and the streets of our nation’s largest city covered in dust and debris.

I certainly didn’t.

Somewhere along the line we as Americans came to the knowledge that terrorist attacks happen in other places in the world, certainly not here.

We would read about reports of terrorist attacks in London subways; watch the aftermath of some bombing of an American Embassy in Africa or car bombs in Bali and we’d think how terrible that was.

It had been over six years since the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and Timothy McVeigh had been caught, brought to justice and executed on June 11th, 2001 – just two months earlier.

In the decade since those attacks, our nation has been engaged in a “War on Terrorism” that has taken our troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. We have seen rebel leaders captured, put on trial, and in some cases, executed.

We found Saddam Hussein and handed him over to Iraqi police. We hunted down and captured leaders of Al-Qaeda; and a man named Osama bin Laden, a name barely known by Americans on September 10th, 2001- became world enemy number one.

For a decade we waited for word that our troops had found bin Laden; and when rumors circulated that he was ill and possibly dead, there were some who thought no one would ever come to justice for what had happened to our country and to those people in the Twin Towers that day.

That all changed, of course, on May 2nd of this year; when our soldiers located, captured, and ultimately killed the leader of Al-Qaeda.

The terrorist organization has since elevated Ayman al-Zawahiri to its top leadership post – and the hunt is now on to find him.

It’s funny, because the past 10 years has changed our country – some for the worse, a lot for the better.

I think we as Americans don’t take our country and our freedoms for granted as much as we used to. We fly our flags again and we celebrate our patriotism more. We sometimes get a little upset when the line to get on an airplane seems to move slowly; but we understand that the delay is designed to keep us all safe.

We also have much more of a world view.

On September 10th, we didn’t know – or care – who Osama bin Laden was. We had never heard of a group known as Al-Qaeda. We only thought of the twin World Trade Center towers as iconic symbols of our nation and of New York City.

About a month prior to the attacks, I was in New York City along with Steve Goddard. We took a cruise out to the Statue of Liberty, and I was taking some pictures, and one of them is of Steve standing on the boat, with the World Trade Centers in the background.

After we finished the tour, we hopped the subway to head uptown, and in doing so we stopped for passengers at the depot directly underneath the towers.

We never thought anything about it, but I would have never guessed that about a month after that day, everything would change.

This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of those attacks. The day will be marked by the dedication of a portion of the memorial in New York – twin reflecting pools and waterfalls that mark the spots where the buildings once stood.

A memorial in Pennsylvania will be dedicated on September 10th; and special services will be held at the Pentagon building.

Here in the county; a program will be held at Switzerland County High School tomorrow (Friday) afternoon that the community is invited to; and the community of Patriot will hold its 9/11 Memorial walk and dedication service on Sunday night. It will be the 10th time that the community has held a vigil; and this year a section of one of the beams from one of the towers will be ceremoniously place in the town’s Memorial Park.

We all live busy lives, and sometimes we get so busy that we tend to forget things that are truly important.

Sunday night in Patriot is truly important.

I know you’re tired. I know it will be the end of a long weekend; but you need to get up and drive to Patriot at 8:15 p.m. and participate in the candlelight walk to the Memorial Park.

You need to take your kids and your grandkids. You need to share your memories of what happened that day and how it impacted you.

The events of September 11th, 2001, changed our nation in the same way that the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 changed our nation. We need to be “Patriotic” more than just a couple of times a year; more than just when we think to put our flag out on its pole.

We, above all, are a nation of survivors. We are a nation that stands up for what’s right and defends those who cannot defend themselves.

We are Americans.

We should never take that for granted.