Looking back to keep moving forward

By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

No matter how many years pass, where you were on 9/11 remains a vivid memory for those who lived through it.

I was 25 years old, and working in the entertainment software/computer game industry. Never a morning person, my first moments of the day were a blur of trying to wake up for my work commute. As I got in my car for the morning, there was a confused murmuring between the cast members of the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning radio show as I made my way to the DART Rail. Something about an attack in New York. Details were still coming in.

I took the train from Mockingbird Station to the West End Marketplace, so it allowed me time to wake up. The morning felt restless, but I still didn’t have a clear picture why. I was focused on making it to work.

I walked into the office just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center. My co-workers were huddled around the break room’s television set. I stared blankly at the television screen as my stomach sunk. It felt like something out of a film, certainly not real. The flight impact happened so casually. 

My mind briefly flashed to my visit to New York City during the summer of 2001. I had the opportunity to visit the observation deck of the World Trade Center, but declined due to the long line of people waiting. 

“Next time,” I thought to myself, an opportunity that would never be available again.

Our boss let us go home. There was nothing left for the day. I went back to the train, then back to my car. After making a few calls to friends and family, I stayed at a friends house until late that evening. Everything felt uncertain. It felt like a light switch had clicked on our world.

I ended up keeping the first week’s worth of newspapers covering the 9/11 attacks. Headlines in giant fonts screamed the impact of the loss, the origins behind the attack, and a United States response was coming. In a morning, 2,977 people were lost after those combined attacks. People just trying to make their way to work like I had that day.

First responders, contractors, and cleaners worked to save people and clean the toxic debris. Those who were there at “Ground Zero” have dealt with long-term health issues since.

Around this time of year, people say “Remember 9/11” or “Never Forget.” For those who were present that day, a reminder isn’t necessary.

It’s hard to believe next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the New York and Pentagon attacks. An entire generation of young adults has been born and graduated high school since that time, never knowing what life was like before.

Every year, my response to 9/11 changes, the length of pause when I think about it. But I always do think about it. This anniversary feels more somber than usual, living in a time where a global pandemic has become our current backdrop. 2020 has been another “light switch” moment. I remember how much the world changed then, I can’t help but wonder what will permanently change now.

Still, I have hope. The United States came together and worked to overcome that time in 2001. The unity on display was profound, a reminder that light can still be found in the darkness. Modern times are difficult again, and certainly longer to work through. The losses are again heavy. But in time, this too shall pass as long as we stick together.

Most people have their own story or experience, on a day where time stood still. For those who would like to share their own personal experiences, readers are welcome to in the comments section.

1 thought on “19 Years Later – A Remembrance of 9/11

  1. As Guy said, we each have a story of where we were and what we were doing when we learned of the 9/11 attacks. My daughters were in grades second and fourth and I had dropped them off at the Catholic School. It seems like I heard a little bit of something on the radio, but I confess it didn’t really register. I worked at a local bank then, and I recall getting to work and one guy being in his office watching a TV constantly. People kept stopping by his office to take a look. The phones were going mad and everyone on the phone wanted to talk about what was unfolding on their televisions. I don’t think they were even calling so much about money or accounts, but possibly just to hear a friendly voice who would listen to their thoughts and fears. I do recall picking up my children after school that day, and returning home to our house in the country. And I remember an overwhelming feeling of wanting to keep them there to protect them from the evils of this world. If there was a positive to come out of that whole tragedy, it was the way it pulled us all together as a nation ~ a feeling that has not been recaptured since, in my opinion. I want that feeling back. I want that feeling of swelling in my chest that I can only describe as pride in my country. I pray for those who lost their loved ones on that day, and pray we never dishonor their sacrifices by taking this great nation for granted.

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