I was sitting in the front seat of my 1982 Oldsmobile 98 regency, the day the world changed. I wasn’t the best of college students at that time, and I was trying to decide whether I wanted to grab McDonald’s breakfast and go home, or attend my next class which I believe was speech. For some reason I had KTIS (the local Christian station) on the radio (which I almost never do), and when I turned the engine over I was greeted by the sounds of the two anchors talking about a plane that had flown into the World Trade Center. To be honest, if I hadn’t been in New York City on a class choir trip the year before and toured the building, I’m not sure I would’ve even know what it was.
The anchors were still explaining the situation they were watching unfold on screens in front of them, when another plane struck the towers, and in an instant, the entire conversation changed from – “what an unfortunate accident” to “this is a deliberate attack.” Being nineteen years old, and not sure what to think, I put my car in drive and drove back to my basement apartment, listening intently to the radio the entire way. When I got home, I booked it into my apartment, took up residence on the couch, and like millions of others around the globe watched the tragedy unfold before my very eyes. None of us knew then HOW our world would be different, we just knew it WOULD be.
In the years since that day, because I am history nut, I have watched more documentaries, been to the 9/11 memorial and museum, and read more articles about that day than I can even remember. Every, single, time, I do, I find myself transported back onto that couch, in the basement apartment, eyes glued to a television screen, trying to fight off feelings of fear, confusion, and mortality. Trying to make sense of a senseless act. Trying to figure out a way that I could make a difference, instead of being indifferent. I’m pretty sure I bought a FDNY shirt or hat, and wore it proudly. I’m sure I prayed for the victims and their families. I KNOW I cheered for the Yankees as they played in the World Series that year. All because I, like everybody else, wanted to DO something. Truth is, I didn’t do much. There were MANY heroes that day and NONE of them were me. I, was just a guy on a couch.
Tonight, well after my family has all gone to sleep, and the house is quiet, I am sure my television will again be covered in the tragic and horrific images of that day. I will hear the familiar sounds of explosions, sirens blaring, people screaming, and the haunting chirps of the fireman’s location devices. And I, will still be just a guy on a couch. But tonight this guy on that couch, who has been through his own traumas in the days since September 11th, 2001, will say a prayer for all those who have had their lives unimaginably changed by those moments I saw on my TV. I will ask my God, who I believe loves them unequivocally and unconditionally, to bring them a sense of safety and peace, the kind they might not even understand, and the likes of which I could try for a lifetime and yet never bring. This is what I do. It is something we can ALL do. It is how we can make sure, we never forget.