Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the terrorists attacks in the United States. To me it feels as if it happened yesterday.
I remember where I was – living in Portland, Oregon, where I worked as a reporter for the state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian. That previous week, I had worked long days and extra hours, so I had been granted a day off to catch up on some much-needed rest. I was in a deep sleep when the first phone call of the day came from a colleague. She didn’t bother with the usual “hello”. Her immediate frantic words were: “Mike, New York is under attack!”
Groggy and still half-asleep, I gently protested that she woke me up and asked what in the world was this about. She told me to put on the news. I turned on the television and didn’t have to switch the channel to find the unfolding drama as every television channel was broadcasting it live. Still, I switched to CNN, because what I was seeing on the television seemed unreal, like a Hollywood movie. Soon after I had tuned in, right there on live television, the second airplane crashed into the second World Trade Center tower.
I tried to call my family in New York to see if everyone was okay and out of harm’s way, but the phone calls would not go through. The phone lines were either jammed or down.
As I watched this insanity unfold, the second phone call came, this one from my editor who said he realized that it was my day off, but “we need all hands on deck.”
As I made my way to the office, I caught my first surreal image of a nation at war: A pickup truck sped up Broadway, one of the main downtown streets, with a man in the back holding high a very large American flag. I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at him, struggling to hold the flag high in the wind and to the truck’s jerky movements. As the truck slowed at a traffic signal, he looked dead at me and said nothing. There was fire in his eyes. He seemed ready for a fight. I guess it was his way of sending a message to the terrorists.
September 11, 2001, touched me in much deeper ways – an attack on a city that I love filled with family and friends who worked either in the towers or the World Trade Center area. My hometown, where as a teenager in Brooklyn I would stare at the Manhattan skyline dominated by the Twin Towers. Those attacks affected friends and family in unimaginable ways. Some are simply not the same people. I’m not the same person. I still travel and will never stop traveling, but like so many, I am wary. I study every passenger who comes aboard a flight I’m on and think about what I could and would do in the event of a terrorist act aboard. It’s the new reality we live in.
At one point that day 10 years ago, I ended up in Pioneer Courthouse Square in Downtown Portland, sitting alone and being comforted by a complete stranger – A woman who didn’t have to ask what was wrong. On that day, 300 million Americans grieved over the same loss and the rest of the world joined in that grief.
So I take this day to remember those nearly 3,000 people from all walks of life; representing dozens of nationalities, who lost their lives 10 years ago. And I pray that these evil men who profess to follow the teachings of a holy book and yet kill helpless men, women and children in the name of religion, are defeated once and for all. Evil is evil, no matter how they try to wrap it.