22 years later...
In some ways, it's impossible to believe it's been so many years since that day.
In other ways, it seems even more impossible to believe that day wasn't just yesterday.
That day, 22 years ago today.
That day none of us can forget.
September 11, 2001...
It was a day that dawned clear and cool, one of those spectacular fall mornings where the deep blue of the sky and the crispness of the air makes you glad to be alive.
It was a day shattered by unimaginable horror.
No-one alive on that day will ever forget the events of that morning:
- At 8:46 a.m., AA 11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
- At 9:03 a.m., UA175 slammed into the South Tower.
- At 9:37 a.m., AA77 crashed into the Pentagon's west side.
- At 9:59 a.m., the South Tower imploded and fell, raining debris and ash on the city.
- At 10:03 a.m., UA93 crashed into a field in the Pennsylvania countryside.
- And at 10:29 a.m., the North Tower collapsed from the top down. A cloud of ash turned day to night in the narrow streets of lower Manhattan.
In those terrible moments between 8:46 a.m. and 10:29 a.m., nearly 3,000 men, women and children lost their lives to senseless, mindless, blind hatred. So many people -- among them folks who lived near me in New Jersey -- my neighbors, my colleagues, my friends -- wiped from the face of the earth.
The youngest was two. The oldest was 85.
Some died in an instantaneous blinding flash they never saw coming. Others had long agonizing moments in which to choose to burn... or to jump.
We wept then. For those who perished. For those who lost husbands, wives, parents, children. For those who never grew old. For those who never grew up.
We wept for the wounds that we knew might never heal. Even today, we weep at the reminders of that terrible day. The sound of bagpipes. The photos. The fear at a low-flying plane. The fear of the silence that followed.
And we wept and we weep for the fact that all those people died -- every last man, woman and child of them -- because of a hatred-born conviction that somehow the world would be what the haters wanted if innocents perished.
I will never undertand that hatred. Hatred that says "those who don't agree don't deserve to live."
I've come to accept that I don't need to understand it.
I don't really even want understand it.
I want to keep my distance from it. To keep the pain clean. To allow myself and all of us to weep and to mourn.
It's always hard to allow ourselves to think of that day. And on this day... this 9/11 anniversary... it's even harder. We who survived are overwhelmed on this terrible day. For everything we lost. For everything that should have been. For all those whose lives were lost. For all who remained behind, broken and bereft.
Still, I have to put that all aside today, as best I can.
Today, and every year on this day, I must do what I swore I would do, 22 years ago, as I walked through the streets of lower Manhattan, and stared at the posters with the faces of the missing, and at the empty firehouses, and at the twisted steel girders.
I promised that I would remember.
Today, now, it's time to keep that promise once again. It's time again to remember. Time to open, once more, the film cannister into which I brushed some of the dust of Ground Zero. Time to touch that dust with my own hands. And, once again, time to stand witness.
To make sure that I don't forget.
That we don't forget.
That no-one forgets.
That all those lives will never be forgotten.
To say, one more time, this year and every year, as long as I have life and breath, in words and images, NEVER FORGET.