My US flag flies today in front of my house.
In the early morning fifteen years ago today, I was sleeping peacefully in my bed when, suddenly, one of my sons shook me awake and delivered a most bewildering bit of news: “One of the twin towers has collapsed!” Twin towers? What twin towers? I remember thinking.
It took me a number of seconds to get into my head what he was talking about, but despite the dead urgency in his voice I still couldn’t credit the information with any comprehension until I had thrown on some clothes and gone downstairs to watch what was happening on live television. Yes, one of the towers had collapsed alright, and while I watched they showed a replay of that event.
And then, while I stood there dumbfounded, I watched the other one fall.
By this point you might be wondering why I was sleeping so late, but no, we lived on the West Coast, and it was just turning into time for breakfast. When I went to work that day everyone was trying to do things that needed done, but all of us were operating in a kind of bubble — yes, let’s do what we’re being paid to do, but oh, my gosh, what is happening? Someone had gotten out a television set and tuned it to the news so we could follow along with what was going on. Many of us also resorted frequently to internet news sites to stay abreast of events.
One of my coworkers, a young woman I frequently worked with, seemed a lot more distraught than anyone else. Since she was normally quite sunny in outlook, I asked her how she was feeling. Her answer stunned me, and brought home the immediacy of this event.
“My brother works for a company headquartered in one of those towers, and even though he normally works in San Diego, California, he’s in New York for a conference!” She said.
And no, she hadn’t heard anything from him, or about him, yet.
Being much too rattled myself to give her much comfort, I located our section supervisor, Dennis, and told him about her situation. Dennis was able to do what I wasn’t prepared to do, and she thanked me later for telling him about it. Later it turned out that he had been in one of the towers at the time an airliner hit it, but even though their conference had been on a floor above the ones that were directly affected by the strike, he had volunteered to go down to the level where they had shops, to buy some pastries for the meeting. He was there when the airplane hit, and he was able to get out before his tower fell.
A few thousand others weren’t so lucky, including a large number of firefighters and police who had rushed in to help evacuate people and fight the fire.
A few weeks later, after at least some of the dust had settled, one of the members of my LDS congregation was asked to give a talk at church, and to touch upon 9-11 in his message. Given that he is a firefighter himself, he would have identified with his fellow firefighters who lost their lives trying to save others, and so one might have expected a bit of anger to show through. But no, this brother’s message was of love and caring, and of joining together in compassion for those who had lost friends and loved ones.
Which is what all of us should remember each year on this day.