September 11, 2001. So hard to believe that 10 years have passed since that horrific day. The images, sadness, and heroic efforts of the American people are forever etched in our minds. As I watch the news coverage of the 10 year anniversary, my mind drifts back to that bright and beautiful day that ended in unspeakable tragedy, and my heart goes out to the fallen and their loved ones as life has to go on for those left behind. So much has changed in ten years, yet so much remains the same. 10 years ago young children watched the tragic events unfold. Some of those same children, now adults, are now fighting the war on terror. Bin Laden is dead, but the Taliban remain. The US elected the first African American President, but his administration is fighting the same battle against evil. Our economy has been weakened, but the spirit of America is strong. Where were you?
I can remember my mom and dad discussing where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated. How their world felt unsafe and America's future was uncertain. I had never experienced those kinds of feelings until 9/11. On that day, as most people will agree, the morning was beautiful and the sky was an extraordinary bright blue. I had dropped off my daughter Hannah, who was 21 months old, at my parents' house and made my way to CCES. I was teaching my 4th grade science class when Ms. Sherry Riddle came into my classroom. Mr. Rexroat, our principal, had sent her to tell all the teachers that there had been what appeared to be a terrorist attack on New York City and Washington DC. At that time details were unclear and events were still unfolding. Knowing that this was undoubtedly an historic event, we turned on our tvs to get an update. Shortly afterwards, the first tower fell and I with a sick stomach I turned the television off. As I looked upon the sweet innocent faces of my students, one of them said, "I can say I will always remember being in science class when World War Three started." Cold chills ran up and down my spine as I tried to hold it together and I answered their questions that I can still remember: "Mrs. Becky, were there people in those buildings? Do you think any kids were in there? Why would they crash airplanes into buildings? They did it on purpose?" How hard it was, and still is, to explain these questions that I do not understand to this day. As soon as I had a free minute I called my parents. Daddy answered the phone. I cried when I heard his voice. I said "Have you heard about the terror attacks?" "No," he replied, "we're outside". "Get Hannah in the house now and turn on the tv." I said through tears. I stayed on the line until he had time somewhat take in the horrific events. The second tower had just collapsed. "All those people..." he said in a shaking voice. "Keep Hannah safe." was all I managed to say between tears. I heard the fear in my daddy's voice as he tried to reassure me. I wanted to go home and be with my baby but I knew the parents of my students were trusting that I would keep their babies safe. When the school day finally ended I went home and hugged Hannah so hard she tried to wiggle free. I hugged her for every parent that had died that day that would never hug their children again, and for those children who had embraced their mommies for the last time. Like everyone in the nation, there was unmeasured sadness in my heart like I had never felt before. Growing up in a small town, I had always felt safe and secure, but now, with planes crashing into buildings, especially our Pentagon, I was scared to death. I can still remember how odd it was to look at the sky and see no planes or contrails from aircraft. Our little house in Dubre, KY was like a refuge for my little family. That night, I was glued to the tv and prayed like never before for survivors to be found. I cried with Peter Jennings, President Bush, and Rudy Giuliani, as he stated that the losses would be "more than we can bear". I cried for the firemen that had rushed into the second tower on a rescue mission minutes before it fell. I cried when, late that night, the members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol and sang "God Bless America". When we went to bed that night Hannah slept in the bed with us and I awoke many times, thinking for a second that it had all been a dream. But the reality was, America had been attacked on her home soil, and we would come to find that almost 3000 people had died, and for those who were still living, our lives would never be the same.
Hannah is 11 now, and those 4th graders are young adults, having graduated high school a few years ago. The little house were we sought refuge in 2001 has been sold and we are living in another home, next to my parents' house. We have been blessed with another daughter, Micah Hope, and I teach 5th grade at the same school. Michael has a different job and my daddy and Peter Jennings lost their battles with cancer. There are memorials at the Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Despite all these changes in the past ten years the raw emotions of that day remain. The mother whose son was a passenger on flight 175 said that each time she watches the video of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center, it's like witnessing her son's death over and over. I shuddered as she spoke that truth. Another family member stated that it is true that someone will catch you when you fall, as she spoke of the support the survivors give each other. As we watched the news coverage of the ten year anniversary, perhaps the most touching tribute that I witnessed this morning was a montage of the babies born after 9/11/11 whose fathers perished on that bright Tuesday morning. The tribute showed photos of the children on the left side of the screen with their father's picture on the right. Every child had their father's eyes. Yes, life goes on, and as it does may we never forget those who gave all on this day. My heartfelt prayers go out to the families and friends whose lives were torn apart, and for the brave soldiers who wage on in the war against terror. God Bless America, land that I love.