How to Remember 9/11 Today

It is amazing how the human mind can remember specific events frozen in time by the impact of a moment.

I remember…

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was driving to work in north Austin listening to the radio when I learned a small plane had accidentally crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. The report of the small plane changed to some kind of rocket and then quickly to a jumbo jetliner. I remember thinking how strange that a jetliner could accidentally fly into the tallest structure in New York City, as if the pilot forgot it was there. Of course, we soon learned it was no accident, but the opening salvo of a coordinated attack on American financial, military and political symbols designed by Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts to strike a fearful and deadly blow to their arch enemy, US! In this context, “US” represents both the United States, and collectively its citizens.

I remember calling my wife to ask her about the television reports, then scrambling to find a TV for the office so we could stay informed about the day’s developments. I remember the horror of the north tower burning and people jumping to their certain death to avoid being consumed by the smoke and flames. You are no longer allowed to see such things, but live TV can sometimes be unpredictable. We watched the second plane crash thru the south tower, the ultimate collapse of both towers, and people run thru the streets as clouds of dust and debris swept among the tall buildings of Manhattan. In the aftermath, the people looked as white as ghosts covered in filth from the remains of the towers.

9-11, New York City, WTC attack, September 11
Second plane explodes, September 11, 2001.

As the day wore on, we watched continuing scenes of the attack on New York, followed by reports from the Pentagon, and eventually the remains of United Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field. Early reports suggested that a US fighter jet shot down Flight 93, but it soon emerged that a group of passengers stormed the cockpit, fighting to retake control of the jetliner from the terrorists. I remember wondering if I would have remained in my seat and let others take the actions that saved other American lives, or if I would have had the courage to join them with maybe a chance of success and continued life. I guess there is no way to ever really know, but I reflect upon the bravery of those who acted to prevent the jetliner from crashing into the US Capital or White House, taking countless other lives and further scarring the American psyche.

I could go on about the events that followed, but the truth is that you can get more details by researching “September 11 Attacks” on the Web: the number of innocents killed, how long the fires burned at the World Trade Center, the shocking photos, and revisit the grief and anger that flooded our country.

This battle is not about religion or nations, but ideals and freedom

For me, 9/11 is about the continuing struggle to keep the American Experiment alive. The battle is not one between religion or nations; but about ideals and freedom.

America is different! Despite our internal struggles, we are still the land of freedom and opportunity! A country born of immigrants and diversity! A melting pot of people who cherish freedom and opportunity, while creating a distinctly American culture and viewpoint. A country built upon tolerance and admiration of individual differences, strengthened by common resolve, with respect for the characteristics that make us uniquely American.

There are those people in this world who want to destroy the dream that is America because our strength and acceptance of that dream threatens their strict views of how they want the world to be for everyone. Diversity of ideas and lifestyles is not acceptable to these people.

This is a life and death struggle for our way of life, and perhaps for theirs.

What we should remember about 9/11

Remembering 9/11 is not about remembering grief, anger or hatred. It is remembering that we were given this country, this freedom, this opportunity, and this way of life through the sweat and blood of those who came before us.

We must remember the events of 9/11 so we do not forget how precious these ideals are, how threatened they are, and the price that must be paid to preserve them for our children and their children.

Like the passengers on Flight 93, we must all be willing to wrest control from those who would destroy the American Dream so it may be preserved for future generations.

A special guest post written by our father, Arthur Henley.


Shelly Henley Kelly