This day. More than any other event, this one stands out the most to me. It was and is the most profound event to happen on US soil during my lifetime. As I was already an adult then, I had the capacity to thoroughly comprehend the magnitude of what was occurring. I will never forget where I was nor what I was doing that morning. I will never forget September 11, 2001.
16 years ago today. That particular morning, I was at work. I was a critical care RN working in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at UAB Hospital here in Birmingham, AL. Having just come off working nights, it was my second day on day shift. Only the three patient rooms in the back of the unit had TVs and soon the entire unit had gathered outside those three rooms to watch the TV in disbelief. Along with the rest of the country, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing was real. But, it was.
Unfortunately, way too real. Before we could process what was going on, we watched the second plane hit. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, we learned that a third plane hit the Pentagon. It wasn’t until later we would learn about the Heroes of Flight 93 who thwarted the efforts of the terrorists even though it would still cost them their lives.
Before anyone could snap out of our utter disbelief, we received calls from New York asking to send victims of the attacks to our units. UAB Hospital is a Level I Trauma Center which means it can handle the highest of acuity level, any specialty needed, and provide complete care from prevention through rehabilitation. We immediately began triaging who could leave the unit to prepare to receive patients from New York.
Sadly, a little while later, we received another call from New York telling us they wouldn’t be sending any patients as they had not survived.
As the days went on, the nation witnessed firsts such as grounded air travel. No one knew if anything else was coming soon after. I remember thinking what happens now? Where do we go from here? Clearly, things will be different.
Yes, they were clearly different.
They were and are the most different for the families of the nearly 3,000 heroes killed that day. Families of the heroes who were in the Towers, on the planes, and in the Pentagon. Family members of the firemen, policemen and members of the armed forces who would soon deploy because of this day to fight for our freedom.
This is something I will never forget and we as a nation should never forget. 16 years later, these families might feel their loved ones have been forgotten, but I hope that isn’t true.
I feel NYC did a great job of commemorating the Towers and the heroes who were in them that day.
I got to visit Ground Zero in 2013 and it was a very sobering moment.
A flood of memories came rushing back. It was extremely emotional as it should have been. The new Freedom Tower is also very powerful.
On the west coast in Malibu, California, there is a lesser-known memorial called Heroes Garden at Pepperdine University. Meant to be a place of remembrance and reflection, it opened to the public on September 11, 2003. In 2011, the widow of Flight 93 Hero (and alumnus of Pepperdine University) Tom Burnett, rededicated the garden as the Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., Heroes Garden.
I moved to Los Angeles in 2004 and went up to the memorial several times for reflection. It is one of my most favorite places in the entire LA area. I took anyone who visited to see it. Although I moved from Los Angeles in 2007, I go back every year. I take whoever travels with me to see it. Because it is a quiet place overlooking the Pacific, it makes an impact.
There are several other memorials, but these are the only two I’ve personally visited.
And I will never forget.
Every time I’m tempted to get impatient because of security in the airports, I remember and I’m thankful. If you have ever boarded a flight in another country that is bound for the United States of America, then you know there is extra security. Once you get through regular security, there’s an additional checkpoint at your gate. One more time you have to pull out your passport. One more time your bags have to be checked. And one more time where you might be the random person selected for security to take EVERY item out of your bag as your flight is boarding. I’ve had it happen. Frustrating? Yes, I’m human. Thankful? Absolutely. 100%. Because that is one more time I don’t forget what happened that day and that this is for my protection.
That day brought America together like no other day I’ve witnessed. We weren’t North and South, East coast and West coast. We weren’t Republicans and Democrats. We weren’t black, white, blue, yellow, or purple. We were Americans. We were the United States of America. And you know what?
We still ARE the United States of America…”One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
That day didn’t do what the terrorists had hoped. And I will never forget.
I will never forget what’s important that is. The nearly 3,000 lives lost that day. The nearly 3,000 people who became American Heroes. The day that united the United States of America.
‘Til next time…