Like December Seventh, Nineteen Forty-One, “9-11” will go down in American history as a new generation’s day of infamy.
In my lifetime, it ranks up there with the horrific day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Why is it that we can readily recall what we were doing when we heard the news? Each of us who have lived through the horror can tell you exactly where they were, who they were with and remember it as if it was only yesterday.
My mother-in-law was addressing wedding invitations to her wedding planned for December 29th, 1941. Eleanor would get a far-away look in her face when recalling the moment. Eleanor, who got arrested for sitting in with blacks at a lunch counter in one of the northern cities civil rights protest, would frown, appear lost in thought, and then brighten up when returning to the present away from those dark moments of yesterday.
I’ve written about November 22nd, 1963, when I was in a sophomore class at a technical high school and news came over the loudspeaker for all students to quietly go to the auditorium. Quiet, hell! We all started asking our algebra teacher, Miss Kelly, what could be the cause for such an unusual proceeding a week before Thanksgiving. She was quiet when she announced that “the president has been shot.” I later learned from my history teacher in the auditorium – and I’m using her words – “The president is dead . . .” (See:https://contoveros.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/nov-22-a-day-like-no-other-in-our-life-time/)
I had just gotten to work on the morning of September 11, 2001, and was speaking with a secretary in the Criminal Justice Center of Philadelphia. I was preparing cases to represent clients in the courtrooms above our public defender office. The secretary turned on the TV as we watched stunned and at a loss with what we saw happening at the Twin Towers in New York City.
We didn’t get a chance to catch our breaths when there was another news bulletin and pictures showed a bombing at the Pentagon.
My God, I thought. What the hell is the world coming to?
Philadelphia shut down. There was standing room only on buses, trolleys and trains making their way out of the center of the city. All I kept thinking on the ride back to Conshohocken was where would they attack next? What’s the next target and what can I do about it?
I wanted to re-enlist, but at age 40-plus, I knew they’d never take an old veteran out of shape no matter how much enthusiasm he had to hunt down the vicious killers. I’ll never forget those days when anything left on the sidewalk on a train of near a bus could be a bomb and somebody told us – it may have been Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security chief — to report any and all suspicious looking objects.
All of us suffered a bit of post-traumatic stress on 9-11 and the days following it.
But, we as a nation got over it and we got Bin Laden and we are leading the world again as champions for what America has always stood for: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every man, woman and child no matter their race, religion or background.
It’s the least we can do to remind ourselves what this anniversary has not dimished!