The Profound Sadness of September 11

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, September 17, 2023

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Rolling thunder, flashing lightning, and gentle rain. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? That’s the morning here in Panama City Beach as I awaken on this Tuesday morning, September 12, 2023.

            Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of that horrible day that is known simply by its month, date, and year. There are more than three dates that are universally identified with trauma and tragedy in our nation’s history, but in my life, three dates stand out among others for remembrance. I was alive for two of the three.

            I was not born for the first, December 7, 1941, a day that will “live in infamy,” according to President Franklin Roosevelt. For those who were alive and old enough to grasp its importance, Pearl Harbor is one of those “I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing” days.

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            Another date for me was November 22, 1963. It was shortly after noon on that Friday in the fall. In Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was two days past my 14th birthday and, although, I was not so mature to understand the historical significance, boarding the yellow school bus that afternoon, the evidence of something of great importance was unmistakable.

            Burned indelibly into my consciousness by black and white television coverage, I remember the sadness of Jacqueline, the salute of Little John, the horse drawn carriage of the casket, the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, and so much more as our nation’s Camelot crashed.

            September 11 has had great significance for our family beyond the fiendish act of terrorism in 2001. My sister, Kathy, was born on that day in 1955 and, until Osama Bin Laden used that date for his evil purposes, September 11 was remembered with a much different demeanor. We still appreciate the date for my sister’s birth, but there is no doubt that it has been kidnapped for a more nefarious meaning.

            I began the day as per usual, as they say. I was farming with my father and began the day with coffee and conversation around the “Amen” table with friends at the Pelham coffee shop known as the “Tank N Tummy.” Nothing had happened at that early hour, although the evil was underway as terrorists had already hijacked the jets.

            By the time I returned home, the news was buzzing about the hijacked planes. Pretty soon, at 8:46 EST, the first plane hit the North Tower of the iconic Twin Towers business site in New York City. Surreal is a word that is probably overused, but not in this case. It means “dreamlike” or bizarre, but to see that plane intentionally crash into the tower was a nightmarish sight.

            A little over fifteen minutes later, the second plane hit the South Tower. Then the Pentagon and, finally, the plane that brave men and women took over from the terrorists crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. America was under attack.

            Documentaries have been shown for the past few days and I think the emotion that overwhelms me is the profound sadness in the voices of the wives and husbands and the families who actually lost loved ones in the tragedies of September 11, 2001.

            The cell phone calls that were received that spelled out the situation with such blunt reality. “I don’t know if I will get out, but I love you.” When those towers came down and those wives and husbands realized that their loved ones were gone, there was nothing they could do.

            For a very brief moment, too brief, our nation was humbled and came together. I don’t ever want to go through another day like that and it must not be forgotten!