“One day of one September / I never can forget. ” –Hilaire Belloc
On the 15th anniversary of the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks, I thought I’d share something from the day that remains close to my heart. When I thought of publishing this, my intention was to tell “my story”. Most of us remember September 11, 2001. Most of them have their “moment” when they first found out about the attack. Everyone remembers what they were doing that day. You can ask any co-worker, neighbor, friend, or family member and they will remember the exact moment they found out that America was under attack. My story of the day can be summed up in one sentence, but I don’t want to do that because even if the day can be recapped in a handful of words, the feelings cannot. And after some thought, I don’t want to spend this post telling “my story.”
This day doesn’t serve as a reminder of what I went through, during or after the day. Or of what I remember from it. It serves as a reminder for what others went through. Of what happened to people I don’t know, or never will know. And so I’d rather spend this post telling someone else’s story.
When I visited Ground Zero, there were two spots that struck me most profoundly, the first of which was the Survivor Tree. The Survivor Tree is a living piece of history–the only living tree that survived the fall of the World Trade Center. It’s a Callery Pear that was severely damaged during the attack, not unlike so many human victims of the day. But after some tending and healing, it was restored to it’s plot in Ground Zero, where it remains a symbol of hope, memory, and resilience. The before and after pictures are highly moving. This tree is a hero in its own way–it showed that being victimized isn’t always the last step. There is surviving. There is rebirth. And there is hope. It made it through the attack, and the years of aftermath from the attack. So can we.
The other place that struck me most was the Memorial Pools. These pools are the largest man-made waterfalls in the US. They are bottomless so to speak, and sit on the footprint of the original Twin Towers. They are covered in bronze panels that are inscribed with the names of every victim from the 2001 and 1993 terrorist attacks. At night, light shines up through the names of the victims, illuminating them. In the void of hopelessness, those victims and heroes shine.
There was one plaque in particular that struck me. On the South Pool the was a bronze panel dedicated to a flight crew member from Flight 77. Her name was Renee A. May, and the plaque was dedicated to her and her unborn child.
That deeply struck me.
There was a baby, a living person, inside of that flight crew member. And the death of her meant the death of her child. Two people. A mother and a baby were killed on that day.
Sometimes the media reduces children to a mere “hassle.” Sometimes babies are reduced to being a woman’s “choice.” And sometimes babies are even deemed to be an “accident.” I think that plaque serves to remind us all of the dignity of children. Just as the mother deserved recognition for being a victim, so did her baby. To those in this world who are not sure what really counts as a human life, that plaque recognizes that human pregnancy is the growth of a human life. That plaque stands as a memorial for two lives lost for a reason.
The heroic woman who lost her life, and the tiny child who was also a victim that day, deserve the bronze panel set out for them on the South Pool. The Survivor Tree also deserves its hallowed plot of ground. There were so many names of heroes inscribed in that memorial, none of whom I ever knew. But they were there. It mades me realize that everyday there are countless heroes who we will never see or know existed. But they are there.
So today I would like to take the time to call all heroes to mind–especially those of the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks–both known and unknown. In memory of them, I would like to thank the heroes that I do know. There are many. And to those I don’t know, you maybe not be known —
But you will never be forgotten.