It is humbling to me to think that its been 12 years since this tragic event unfolded. I think just about everyone who is over the age of 25 can probably tell you the exact details of when they heard. This is my story and thoughts.
It was a beautiful morning and I was a freshman in college (CCC-Columbus). My first real attempt at being on my own!! I was 18 and in my dorm room with my roommate. I lived over two hours from home but loved the feeling of independence and my chance to make a mark on the world. (Looking back I really was that confident and relished in my new chapter in life!) I sat getting ready for class (my roommate hated morning news – but I always watched it) watching either GMA or the Today Show and distinctly remember watching them break in with the news and moments later the horrid site of plane #2 hitting the tower.
My initial naive thoughts were – people will get out, they have to, this can’t be happening. I went to my speech class (yes, I still remember that and my teacher) and my teacher said, we’re not having class, we’re going off the books and we’re going to talk about how we’re feeling right now. Granted, I’m old enough to say this was pre-smart phones. You were a lucky one if you had a laptop and not a clunky desktop. We weren’t able to read facebook (it wasn’t invented yet!), we weren’t able to read tweet feeds, and texting wasn’t around either. You went to a computer to email (gasp!!!) and maybe read fox news or cnn or some other news that would cover it.
I felt alone, sad, and fearful. That day I kept watching the news thinking – there has to be something I can do. I’m a poor freshmen so I can’t do much but there has to be something. BAM!…around my lunch break a news feed was scrolling across the bottom of every TV channel that the Governor of Nebraska was urging residents to donate blood or money to the Red Cross. I nabbed my phone book (yep still used those too!) and made my first appointment to donate blood. In hindsight it might seem like a really small act but it was something I was excited and dare I say compelled to do. I didn’t even know the town so had to look at the map in the phone book too but still feel proud that I sort of helped. I remember sitting at the red cross in Columbus, NE, I was by far the youngest person there – I did just turn 18 a couple weeks before – but was talking to strangers about what was happening and we all felt better in our own ways for helping or just talking to and listening to others.
When I excitedly returned to my dorm room, my roommate made fun of me but I also remember saying to her – “at least I can say I did something…what did you do?!” I guess volunteering and helping people has been ingrained in me for as long as I can remember with volunteer activities but for the first time in my life I felt like I was part of something bigger. Even if my blood never made it to NYC or the Pentagon, I knew that I tried to help and that was good enough for me. I also think from that moment on I knew that whatever I do in life, a part of it will always be spent helping or working with others. In the face of tragedy I think we all have two reactions, you can walk away or you can turn your face to it and do what you can.
That night I talked to my parents and even emailed my pastor to ask for some sort of reasoning behind this. In the passing days I watched with everyone else as person after person was rescued and the very solemn moments when they found someone who had passed away and treated them with the utmost respect and dignity despite the chaos.
My heart goes out to everyone that was directly or indirectly impacted by this. It is a day that will stay with all of us. I’m heartbroken at the thought of so many rescue personnel who lost their lives that day simply doing what they do and those who continue to deal with issues from this day. I’m also proud to see our country came together for a period of time and despite color, race, religion, or sexuality; we were friends, neighbors, and family. It didn’t matter, and it shouldn’t matter today but it does.
Now that I know people in emergency services personally, I can truly see that its something deep down inside a very specific group of people that compels them to walk into the unknown for people that they don’t even know. It is not something that everyone can do or handle but for the people that do, they excel at it.
Take a moment today and remember – do it for all those who selflessly gave their lives to help others, for those who didn’t make it, and those who are still struggling with it today.
Thank you for stopping by Gracious Luck and for reading my thoughts.