On September 11, 2001, my family had just begun it’s long ride home from vacationing in Cape Cod when we pulled into a gift shop and heard on the store radio that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. We ended up going home the next day instead, and the trip across the Tappan Zee bridge was like a funeral procession, as every car slowly idled across, heads turned toward Manhattan and the huge column of brown-gray smoke that rose from the city and smeared across the sky. I remember the skies being quiet, wondering when, if ever, we were going to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
I remember my neighbors mourning somebody they lost in the attack. I remember a colleague of mine who was living in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and saw the towers collapse with his own eyes. But before that, he saw the people jumping out of burning windows and tumbling all the way to the ground. He still saw them in his dreams, he once told me, and ultimately he moved to California to put some distance between himself and the place where he saw such awful things.
I remember how, some years later, a friend of mine in the Marines was nearly killed by an IED in Iraq. Ten of his men were not so lucky. I was used to bearing reports of soldiers killed in the news, but somehow when I heard this one report my wife and I both knew it had been our friend who got hit this time. He would not have been there had 9/11 never occurred. Nor would have his colleagues who never made it home.