September 11th, 2001 was the second day of my vacation. I was sleeping in. The phone rang. My frantic mother was on the other end of the line asking, “Are you awake?” Now, my mother is rarely—if ever—frantic about anything. So, her tone was immediately alarming. But then she said, “We’re under attack!” It took me a moment to process that statement. “Under attack?!?” “Yes,” she continued,”New York City has been attacked!”


I rushed into the living room and turned on the TV and saw one of the World Trade Center towers in flames. Very soon after, the second plane came into view and vaporized as it disappeared into the second tower. Among so many, I will absolutely never forget that image—the plane simply vanished. It was then I realized that my mother’s phone call had been somewhat unusual. Like so many others, I assumed that a terrible accident had occurred—that something had gone horribly wrong and a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. It was only after the second plane that we all understood the horror of what was happening. We had just been attacked. I guess Mom just had a sense after the first one that this was a far bigger incident than it seemed on its face. And it certainly was. It was the day everything changed. It just changed. Hundreds of millions of us stayed glue to our televisions for the foreseeable future, constantly searching for the next angle, the next clue as to who did this or what we were going to do going forward. For the first time in my lifetime, it simply felt like our nation was at a loss. Nothing like this had ever happened. Some 3000 people dead at the hands of foreign aggressors, and it happened on our turf.


The more we watched the coverage that week, the more it sank in—we were not safe. In one fell, and very deadly, swoop, we came to realize that what we had long taken for granted—that we could simply move freely about our daily lives without a great deal of concern for our inherent safety—was gone. If terrorists could climb aboard four commercial airliners on American soil and turn them into 400 ton weapons, what else could they do? We thought those questions had been partially answered in short order when we were hit by the anthrax scare. It was just a week later that envelopes containing deadly anthrax spores were mailed to various politicians and members of the media. Physical consequences were deadly. Emotional consequences bordered on despondency. But it was also a slap in the face. The time to despair was over. We had to get busy. We had to take on a new philosophy of vigilance. We had to accept that certain of our freedoms, for a time, were going to have to be a bit curbed in order for the larger concern—our safety—to take precedence. We were going to have to understand that there would be those, unrelated to the 9/11 terrorists, who would take advantage of our fears.


And we ARE going to have to accept that we likely won’t be returning to the mindsets that existed before September 11th, 2001. I don’t think we can afford to do that. We live in a world occupied by horrible people who despise our lifestyle to the point of wanting to eradicate it. And I can’t help but think that they will always be out there. Of course, this doesn’t mean we have to disappear into a tomb of paranoia. We’ve proven we can work to stay safe without sacrificing our happiness and enjoyment of life. And we have to continue doing just that. We have to prove we can stand up to the villains of the world and continue to live the lives we've been living for the last 236 years. We have to continue to be the good example.

Looking back, it's really hard to believe it's been 10 years. Remember when that seemed like a long time? As we get older it just doesn't. And I guess because of the magnitude of the 9/11 attacks, it might never seem like it's getting further away in time. Maybe it will always seem to us like it happened yesterday. And, maybe, that is exactly the way it should be.