It’s been a couple of weeks now, but the 18th anniversary of 9/11 is still weighing heavily on me.
First, how can it have been 18 years ago? For many of us, it’s fresh in our hearts and minds.
My kids were 14 and 12 years old. Old enough to realize what they were seeing and hearing, but not old enough to understand it. But then, neither was I.
What sticks with me is how horribly paralyzing and utterly frightening that time was. For a couple generations, this was the moment in our lives that changed our perspectives, forever.
We all remember what we were doing the exact moment we learned of the attack. We also remember the depth of camaraderie we experienced, with family, friends, co-workers and our nation.
We’ll never forget.
On Sept. 10 this year, a colleague was in my office discussing an upcoming project. The conversation turned to the impending anniversary of 9/11, and I naturally asked her what she was doing when she learned a plane had crashed into the first tower. Her eyes welled up immediately, and she began telling me what a dark day it was for her.
She was then a stay-at-home mom to a couple toddlers. Her husband was a pilot for United Airlines. She had spoken to him the night before when he called her from Miami.
He was tentatively scheduled for a flight the next morning to Caracas, Venezuela, but had been told that could change.
So, the next morning, as she is getting one child ready for preschool and going about a normal morning, she is stunned into a nightmare she could not have imagined. And as many of us remember, there was no way to get through to anyone, on cellphones or otherwise. It was 3 p.m. before she knew he was OK.
She’ll never forget.
Another colleague has a sister who was working at the Pentagon that day. She did not learn until late the next afternoon that she was OK.
On every anniversary of 9/11, she has the timeline of events on notes at her desk. With the passing of each significant event that day she shreds that note.
She’ll never forget.
That day showed us how evil the world can be. But it also showed us how much compassion and strength we have when we stand together, whether for a wonderful celebration or a devastating event.
This year on the evening of 9/11, I was at a local municipal council meeting. As is customary, we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the meeting. I was caught off guard by my emotional response at that moment.
The following weekend, I was at a Tigers game in Detroit. The singing of the national anthem had the same effect on me.
The date 9/11 also holds a most precious, beautiful place in my heart, as it is the birthday of our first grandchild.
For me, part of my responsibility in her life is to share the most impactful experiences of my generation with her so that she, too, doesn’t forget. It is one thing to read history, and quite another to hear it from the heart of someone who cares deeply for you.
I know that in the next few days and weeks the nearness of these memories will fade – again. For now, I just want to be still and grateful.
I will never forget.
Pat Arter is senior volunteer program director of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each week in The Herald-Palladium.