What were you doing on September 11, 2001 when you first heard about the attacks?
It was after 8 a.m. on that day when my friend Robert called and woke me up.
I had been asleep for three hours when the phone rang. I answered the phone with my eyes closed as I said, “Hello.”
“John, two planes hit the World Trade Center,” said Robert.
I was half asleep and I wondered why he was calling about a plane crash. Robert was my first roommate from college. We had always kept in touch, but a call from him at this time of the day was unusual.
All I could say was, “Huh?”
“Turn on the TV. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. It’s horrible.”
That got my eyes to open up this time. How could two planes crash into each other and hit the buildings? This must’ve been some type of horrible accident. Robert’s voice told me something was wrong and I should turn on the TV.
I turned the TV on and the grogginess left my body as I took in the images of the Twin Towers collapsing into a pile of twisted metal as it was replayed over and over.
Then there was the video of the crowd running away from the large cloud of dust that soon surrounded and choked them. There was no way I was going back to sleep after seeing that. It was a day no one would forget.
Fast forward 14 years later.
This Friday, my daughter’s elementary school will celebrate Patriot Day with an assembly. The assembly is an annual event at the school where parents are invited to come. Additionally, parents who are firefighters, police officers or in the military are invited to attend in uniform to participate.
Every year, the principal introduces the people in uniform at the start of the assembly. One by one, we stand up and wave at the crowd.
After the introductions, the principal gives a speech to the children about what 9-11 means and why it’s important to remember that day. Every year, her words are powerful and passionate as she talks about those who lost their lives on that day. She also tells the children about what people in uniform do to protect them and the sacrifices they make.
Afterward, children from different grade levels come up and give short speeches about Patriot Day and what it means. This is followed by each grade performing a patriotic song for the school.
This will be my last Patriot Day assembly because my daughter is in sixth grade. It’s weird to know this will be the final time I will wear my uniform at her school. Patriot Day was always something my kids looked forward to because the school made it a big deal.
Every year, it’s been fun to see the smile on my kids’ faces when I show up. The pride in their eyes made me feel like I hit the jackpot at a Las Vegas casino. One fond memory I have was when my daughter pointed to me with a big smile and said, “That’s my dad.”
Today, I’ll be there for the final time, along with other parents in uniform as our elementary school pays tribute to the fallen from that day. None of the children at the school were born at the time, but our principal will make sure they never forget.
Take a moment today to remember those who died on that September morning in 2001. It was a day when things changed forever and when the fight was brought to us.