Where Were You....By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Monday, September 11, 2006
Who doesn't remember where they were when news of the first World Trade Center plane strike reached them?
I was on my way to work on Sept. 11, 2001, driving south on Route 7 to the Berkshire Eagle's Northern Berkshire bureau, thinking what a warm, sunny day had taken shape. I was listening to the radio - Sean and Ritchie on WGNA - when the music stopped and an announcement that a plane had crashed into the "Twin Towers" was made. By the time I had made it to the back road in Williamstown, word came that a second plane had struck the World Trade Center. Someone announced, at that very preliminary stage, that the crashes may have been deliberate.
I detoured from my planned work destination and drove to my parents home. The television was on and the images being broadcast were unbelievable, more than the eye could take in. There was a sense of horror, a sense of nightmare, a sense that the world might really be ending.
As the morning slid toward afternoon and the Towers collapsed, as the news came of a plane down in a Pennsylvania field, and another flown into the Pentagon, as the skies were cleared of all commercial and private planes, as the enormity of the death toll began to sweep the country, I felt the fear, the anger, the sorrow, and the overwhelming shock shared by almost every American citizen.
The news coverage went on for days, 'round the clock, uninterrupted, and Berkshire region media outlets began reporting about local connections to what was almost immediately termed "9/11."
I remember the many on-line and on-scene postings and pleas from relatives desperately seeking loved ones who were inside the World Trade Center when the planes hit. I read on-line newspapers from overseas and found that the attacks had stunned most all of the world's population.
I bought my first flag on Sept. 12 and attached it to my vehicle radio antenna. That flag remained until it became a tattered rag and I replaced it; when the second flag was shredded from wind and weather, I removed it and replaced it with a rear window flag magnet.
This morning, five years later, there is no flag of any kind displayed on my vehicle.
I remember the stories of emergency response teams, stories of the heroic actions of firefighters, police officers, chaplains, and emergency medical personnel. Some survived the crashes, collapses, flames and smoke; many, many more did not.
I remember the days that followed 9/11.
I remember the television networks that simultaneously hosted a 9/11 benefit concert, with all the performers placed at different undisclosed locations for security reasons. I remember the collection points established at supermarkets and other venues, and the volume of items collected for distribution to the workers at "Ground Zero."
Time passed and the songs came: country music notable Toby Keith musically threatened to "put a boot up your a**, it's the American way," and another country star, Allan Jackson, wondered "Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?".
1,826 days have passed since 9/11. As a nation, we have returned President George Bush to the White House, gone to war in Iraq, faced off with vehicle and heating fuel prices, and witnessed more unbelievable scenes of human suffering due to a hurricane named Katrina and a shockingly inadequate government response to the Gulf Coast devastation.
Time is a force that propels all living people forward. So many thousands, perhaps even millions of people who did not believe they could ever resume normalcy after 9/11 have found that in fact, they could, and did. There are children alive today who were not yet born on 9/11. This country now hosts a pre-9/11 population and a post-9/11 generation.
Debates about trading liberty for security rage on while young military troops die in the name of freedom. Terrorists and their many plots are alive and well. In this country, we now live under a constant cloud of yellow, orange, or red - the only post-9/11 national terrorist attack alert system "colors" issued since the attacks.
The terrorist alert system itself is a result of 9/11.
Milestone anniversaries almost always generate renewed attention and this, the fifth anniversary of 9/11, is clearly no exception.
Already, on morning network television programs, the likes of Matt Lauer and other media personalities are conducting their probing interviews with, in Lauer's case, President Bush and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The questions are what one might expect: "Are Americans safer today than before the attacks?," "How do you sleep at night with the information you have, Mr.President?", and the answers aren't anything out of the ordinary. Clinton responded that she believes Americans are safer but not "safe enough." Bush said he sleeps at night despite his vast knowledge of potential terrorist activity because of his faith in "Almighty God" and his top advisors and cabinet members.
Bush did concede, when pressed by Lauer, that if we all knew what he knows, our sleep might not be particularly peaceful.
Sept. 11, 2001, is a day that belongs to every American citizen. We share the pain, the horror, the agony of raw emotion. We share in the strength and patriotism that grew like Iowa corn and waved its' red, white and blue spirit from front porches and vehicle antennas across America.
It was The Day That Changed America and in truth, this nation will never be the same. As the sun rose on the East Coast that morning, people drained their coffee cups, their tea cups, or their juice glasses, and headed into their everyday lives. Over 3,000 of them never returned home.
This is a day to reflect, to remember, to pray if you wish, or not if you don't. That is the core of the United States of America, the ability to choose your place of worship or choose not to worship at all, to cast a ballot, to speak your mind.
I will never forget Sept. 11, 2001 or the people of a free nation who died at the hands of terrorists.
I will not deny my opinions, my right to free speech, my right to peacefully assemble, my right to vote and my right to vent.
I will not turn from the ideals that made this country a target for those who hate.
I am an American. I live proudly in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
It is another clear, sunny Sept. 11 morning. Five years have passed.
People have drained their coffee cups, their tea cups, and their juice glasses and headed into their everyday lives.
Five years after Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have not been cowed by terror.
There may be no greater tribute to those who were killed five years ago today than that.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or 802-823-9367.