Twelve years ago, these words took on a new meaning, morphing from an innocent slang statement casually tossed out in social and sports settings to a profound declaration of courage, strength and American heroism. September 11, 2001 began innocuously enough, a day like any other. It didn't stay that way for long.
It's amazing, isn't it, how the days that change the course of history often begin as ordinary days with nothing to distinguish them from the days before.....until something does.
It was five days before my first wedding anniversary. My children weren't even a thought, yet. I was a new PT, a new wife, a twenty-something young American woman at work, getting ready for my first patient and thinking ahead to what the hours would bring. I had no idea, when I picked up the phone to answer the call from my co-worker across the way that her request to turn on the waiting room TV would show me the most horrific sight of my life. I watched in slack-jawed shock as the second plane crashed into Tower Two of the World Trade Center. I tried to absorb the complete travesty of the images before me, and couldn't. I listened to news stories pour in, as people ran screaming and crying down the streets of Manhattan. I watched smoke and dust engulf these images. Then, I listened as breaking news announced another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. And then another had smashed into the field in Pennsylvania - we would later learn it had been bound for the White House.
Images and memories from that day are forever burned into our hearts and brains.
Flames engulfing the towers.
The tiny figures leaping from the heights to plummet hundreds of feet to the buildings and pavement below.
Hundreds of New York City firefighters and police rushing into the rubble to perform their duties and rescue the victims therein, only to become victims themselves when the building collapsed on top of them.
People running, running, running as they tried to escape the horror all around them.
It was the most devastating attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.
It happened in our lifetime.
And the world would never be the same.
In less than ninety minutes, the landscape of our existence changed forever.
Because someone with hate in their heart and envy in their blood unleashed their poison on mankind.
Nearly 3,000 fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, friends, wives, husbands and loved ones lost their lives that day.
A generation lost its innocence.
A nation lost its security.
But only for a while. Before long, out of the ashes, the tales and details of bravery and brotherhood began to rise. How can we remember this day without mention of the brave passengers and crew of Flight 93? Their calls to loved ones, their reactions and determination to act upon learning of the other planes, their majority vote to rush the terrorists and thwart their plans no matter the cost, their phone calls and voice mails to loved ones, some ending in statements of needing to hang up because it was time to run at the front of the plane......who can ever forget Todd Beamer and the message he left for his wife with the GTE supervisor before joining his fellow patriots with the charge, "Are you guys ready? Okay, let's roll".
In the aftermath, we clung together as a people on our knees and wept, then held to each other as we started to rise. Regardless of race, religion or politics, age, gender or education, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation, we were united - one nation, under God, and, for a time, indivisible.
On this day, may we never forget any of it. May we remember what it felt and looked and sounded and smelled like to live through a defining hour. May we know that in every terrible season, there is an opportunity for greatness. And that our Father watches and holds us, assuring His children that despite the world's troubles, He has overcome them and will triumph with us in the end (John 16:33).
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