Five years ago today, I remember noticing how beautiful the morning was. It was perfect with not a cloud in the sky. A hint of autumn was in the air as the temperatures had moderated from a hot summer. And the gloaming of the day had already started to make the days look like fall.
It was a day that was just like the day in which my father had died 4 years earlier. As sometimes happens when you notice a small reminder, I thought of my dad and how our lives had changed. But then I put it out of my mind. I needed to get into the office and prepare for a SPLOST election that was to happen in one week from that day.
I had already been at work for a couple of hours when my clerk comes into the office with her usual big, bright smile and a hearty "good morning." She talked about what a beautiful morning it was and how it was one of those days when she looked forward to going to work and seeing everyone.
Shortly after 9 a.m., she comes into my office and says that her mother had called and said that we were under attack in New York City. I dropped what I was doing and raced home to get a small tv set that I used for tailgating.
All along the way, I was listening to the radio. My mind was racing about what was going on. I thought of the one time that I actually layed my own eyes on the WTC. Why couldn't I remember more?
I was 29 years old. I gave a thought to my nephews approaching the age of 18. Selfishly, I thought about where I might be in 5 years. Was this such an event that it would change all of our lives forever? And if so, just how drastically? Where would any of us be? And what would we be doing in relation to the events unfolding in those very moments. This was big. This was something I had never witnessed in our own country before. I imagined this might have been what my dad felt like when he first hear of the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
Like everyone else, we spent the day watching what was happening. Up until lunch time, people might straggle in who didn't even know what was going on. They were too busy dropping their kids off at school, or working for their living to have known. But they stopped dead in their tracks, just as surely as we had.
I gave a thought to my brother's best friend who is a marketing director with Estee Lauder, and whose office was in Manhatten, near Central Park. What about my friend Kathy who was a US Air flight attendant? She flew out of Jacksonville, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh. Was she on a flight that was to be hijacked? I also thought of a niece who was attending the University of Maryland, not far from Washington, D.C. Who was flying today?
You think of all these things and you're not sure where to start. Later in the day, I would find out that all of my loved ones were safe. And as affected as we all were, I couldn't even put myself in the shoes of those who were actually there. Nor those who were waiting by phones anxiously awaiting word from their loved ones who worked in the World Trade Center, or the Pentagon, or who were flying that day.
And later, we would hear the agonizing phone calls to airline and police authorities. And the oh so personal phone calls to loved ones from people trapped in the WTC. To this day, I still hesitate to listen to those, feeling it's just too personal to know what they were saying.
Our world was changed forever. But what we didn't realize fully is that it had changed a long time ago. This didn't happen overnight. We had the 1993 WTC bombing. We had the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. We had the bombing of the USS Cole. We had heard of plots to blow planes up over the Pacific. Events were happening. And yet we were talking about work, football, and Monica Lewinsky.
Hindsight is 20/20. But we no longer have the excuse of "not knowing." Life must go on. And morbidly reflecting back on 9/11/01 each day isn't healthy. But we must be aware of what's going on. And we must demand that the people we elect and those that they appoint are doing everything they can to make sure this never happens again.
Always remember those who lost their lives 5 years ago today. Always seek to understand why the terrible events of 9/11/01 happened. Let us remember that 9/11 is not a partisan issue. Richard Clarke said it best. We failed, Democrats and Republicans. I supported our efforts in Afghanistan. But I continue to be baffled by the war in Iraq. There's not much we can do about past events. But we need to be better focused on present events and their consequences.
We must finish the job of punishing those responsible. And we must always remain committed to preventing this from ever happening again.