You didn't have to live back East to feel the impact of this day because the entire country trembled from coast to coast as we watched on television, listened on radio or by internet to the events unfold live before our very eyes.
Frantic phone calls were made to loved ones to be sure that they were safe and sound. Mothers scurried like hens to gather up their chicks and place them securely under their loving wings. There were more "I love yous" spoken and kisses given as children were tucked safely in their beds that night and longer times spent on bended knees or with heads bowed in prayer asking for God's protection and love in our country's hour of need and in the days to come.
The full range of emotions flooded through my being as I watched in horror. The planes hit the towers and the destruction that followed. Images of people covered with ash and soot running away from burning buildings, as firemen went past them the other way headed into the infernos that they were so desperately trying to escape from. My eyes filled with tears as I watched the destruction, the expressions on the faces of those who were escaping, thankful to be alive, but concerned about those left behind who did not make it out of those buildings. The firemen who knew this was bad, really really bad and inwardly praying they to would make it out alive as they pressed forward to look for survivors.
Anger followed when I learned of two more planes, one crashing into the Pentagon and another into a farmer's field because of the bravery of passengers who stood up and attempted to overtake their hijackers and if not to gain control of the aircraft from them, to divert them from their intended target, which by later reports appeared to be the White House itself.
I felt complete helplessness as I watched, glued to the television day after day. It was paralyzing, wondering what was going to happen next. Would there be more attacks in other parts of the county? Flashbacks of the Oklahoma City bombing began to race through my mind and then the calm came sweeping over me. I watched as people banned together in unity, like they did when we went through our tragedy. People from all over the country headed to New York to help at Ground Zero. After all we aren't called The United States for nothing!
I felt compassion and grief for families and friends as they gathered in areas near where the twin towers once stood, holding pictures of loved ones, shouting out to anyone who would listen " Have you seen this person" as they held their loved ones photos higher to be seen. Impromptu memorials sprung up on street corners and night time candle vigils were held.
Pride swelled within me as I watched sweat soaked firemen coming off their shifts through a street lined with people clapping and cheering for them, letting them know they appreciated all the work that they were doing attempting to find anyone alive or to retrieve the bodies of a loved one.
One image I will never forget is that of the priest who went in with the firefighters to give comfort and last rites to the victims and became a victim himself. The photograph of the firemen carrying this man of God, who sacrificed all, to give comfort to those in need, will forever be etched in my memory.
The other image I will remember will be the picture of the firemen raising the American Flag above the ruble. It reminded me of the flag being raised on Iwo Jima during World War II.
Let us not become complacent or arrogant thinking that this can never happen to us again. There have been other incidents in history that should never have been forgotten, or the "rough edges" taken off with the passage of time, but as years pass and people settle into "the new normal," acceptance and complacency begins to follow instead of vigilance.