I have visited New York City many times in the days since 9/11. Each time I have visited, I believe it is appropriate to take a few moments to visit the hole in the ground that once held two of the tallest buildings in the world – and where nearly 3,000 of my fellow citizens were killed. Nearly 400 of which were police, firemen, and other rescue personnel.
No matter one’s political view – 9/11 is an event that has changed many of our lives – personally, professionally, and spiritually in many cases. It’s hard to fathom or think back to a time before 9/11 and how things were different, almost more innocent perhaps.
On September 11th, I was living in Boston and working for a client based in Hartford, Connecticut. I was about ten minutes from one of their offices when a friend of mine who lived in Washington, DC called to tell me about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. A few minutes later, I arrived at the office in time to see the second plane hit the other tower. And then I knew, we were in a war…
Having previously worked in law enforcement, I knew that the men and women of the NYPD, FDNY, and the Port Authority Police were going to go storming into those towers to do what they could. I wondered of Karen, a former co-worker of mine who was a Special Agent with the United States Customs Bureau, who had been assigned to the WTC (she survived).
Regardless of the danger, I knew that they would go into that building.
One photo and story that has always stuck with me about 9/11 is this picture that I first saw months after 9/11 in Dennis Smith’s book Report from Ground Zero.
It’s a photo of Lt. Ray Murphy of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). He was walking away from the cameraman following the collapse of the first WTC Tower. He was shaken and probably felt lucky to be alive. He had just recovered from that tower collapse and was headed into the still standing WTC tower in order to lead his men and help others.
He was killed in the collapse of that tower.
This picture has always reminded me of both heroism and sacrifice given freely by the men and women of the FDNY, NYPD, PAPD, and others that day —
And those acts of heroism were repeated at the Pentagon, where we saw even the Secretary of Defense move to help rescue those injured by the attacks. And on Flight 93.
Flight 93 represents perhaps the best example of courage by citizens during my lifetime. Who would have thought that this group of ordinary men and women would choose to fight back – rather than sit back – and in the process perhaps save hundreds of lives at the cost of their own? Words cannot describe the emotions that churn when I think about what happened on that flight.
In the end, I think we all have the responsibility to remember what happened that day – to us – to our fellow man – here in our own country. Five years on now, sometimes we forget.. sometimes it’s easier to bury those thoughts and emotions and almost pretend that it didn’t happen.. not here, not in New York, not at the Pentagon, not in Shanksville.
A few months back, while having coffee with a dear friend in Minneapolis, our conversation steered towards the impact of September 11th on our lives – both personally and professionally.
She pulled out her PDA – tapped on it a few times – and spun it around so that I could read it.
It was her calendar – turned to September 11th, 2006 – and it showed just one word:
Back in June, at St. Paul’s Chapel just across the street from the World Trade Center, at the memorial wall where one could leave a note.. I scrawled my own simple reminder to myself.
I have not forgotten.
James Lileks, who writes The Bleat and a column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, perhaps said it best a few years back on a previous anniversary:
We should rebuild the towers. Just as they were.
Because we can.
Because they can’t.
We get caught up in alot of arguments and disagreements in the blogosphere. What’s a blog network? for example. We argue about whose business model is better than anothers – and we laugh at the misfortune at some… and we debate why Karl Rove hasn’t been indicted yet…
The reality is that none of that really matters. And one only has to visit the World Trade Center to understand why.
Editor’s Note: Most of this post was posted on June 21st, 2006. This version is edited slightly for the context of the 5th anniversary of September 11th. You can read the original post here.
Matt Craven is the former editor & publisher of The Blog Herald. Currently, Matt is the co-founder of Bryghtpath LLC, a consulting practice located in Woodbury, Minnesota. Matt's presently looking for new blogging gigs. Ping him at matt (at) bryghtpath dot com. You can follow him on Twitter.