Seven years. Has it really been that long already? Where were you when you heard about the first plane hitting The World Trade Centre at 8:46AM EDT?
I was at home, getting ready to go to Superstore to get some groceries. I didn't hear about the crash right away. My favourite nostalgia radio station was on. The station didn't have a news department, but a listener had called in and told the announcer about what they had just seen on television. It was a little past 8:00AM CDT when I heard the announcer inform the listeners that he didn't know any details, but that there were reports of a plane crashing into a skyscraper in New York City.
What? I immediately turned on the TV and was dumbfounded by what I saw. They were replaying the video of the first plane hitting the tower. It was surreal. This had to be an accident! No one would deliberately do something so crazy, would they?
Newscasters were talking about a second plane hitting another tower. This was no accident. What the hell was going on? Why was this happening and was there more insanity to come? Was this only happening in New York, or were there more to come in other parts of the world? Was something going to happen here in Winnipeg too?
I wanted to stay home and watch what was happening, but I needed to get some groceries so I decided to go out anyway. I'd only be gone for an hour and a half or so. I left about 8:30AM CDT and caught my usual 8:40AM #66 Grant bus to Superstore. Normally that bus can get a little noisy as a lot of students are on their way to school. That morning was different. No matter how full the bus got, there was an eery silence. Any conversation was done in whispers. Everyone seemed to be in a state of shock and fear of what was happening. Even the store was quieter than usual. I heard about the third plane hitting the Pentagon while I was at the checkout. By the time I got home, a little past 10:00AM CDT, the fourth plane had crashed in Pennsylvania and all planes had been ordered to land at the nearest airport.
Millions of people around the world stopped and watched in horror as the realization of the depth of these attacks began to sink in. Minutes and hours crawled by as we all sat by our radios, TVs and computers waiting and hoping that this was all a bad dream. Sadly, this was the beginning of a horrendous terrorist attack that took the lives of almost 3,000 innocent lives and injured thousands of others.
A male relative, and his then wife were living in New York at the time. I found out later that day, that she had actually been flying standby to Minneapolis that morning out of Newark Airport. It was several hours before he heard she was safe. Her plane landed safely in Chicago and she got a ride the rest of the way. Had she gotten to the airport half an hour or so earlier, she may well have been on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. He was able to leave by Amtrak a couple of days later to join her. That was the closest I came to knowing anyone directly affected by the attacks at the time.
Many of us were badly shaken, numb and at a loss to offer more than prayers and a few dollars to the Red Cross and other charities. We felt helpless as we watched in disbelief as the events unfolded. It was days before any sense of normalcy returned to most of the world. Tens of thousands of others were not so lucky. They lost friends and loved ones or knew people who were injured on the ground. Their lives would never be the same.
9/11 changed all of us to some extent. Some became religious and some walked away from their beliefs. Some became distrustful of those who did not look like them or who were not born in their country. Many wanted vengeance. Others wanted forgiveness and tolerance. Thousands just wanted their loved ones back.
I have always been a pacifist and I've been an agnostic for 20 years. I don't believe in an eye for an eye or blaming an entire religious/ethnic group for the actions of a few. I try to accept people at face value and not pass judgement by their attire or beliefs. I consciously try to greet people with a smile and a kind greeting.
9/11 taught me how fleeting life can be and how important it is to let our friends and family know how important they are to us and how much we love them and appreciate them.
We don't know how much time any of us have. If you do nothing else today, please tell at least one person in your life that they are loved, they are important to you and you are thankful that they are part of you life.