When reading this title most will wonder, how could I have mixed emotions? Yes, September 11, 2001 was a tragic day but for me it involved joy amid the sorrow. Let me start at the beginning of that day. My day started early, driving to then named Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, SC. My grandfather was scheduled for surgery to remove a subdural hematoma better known as a blood clot on his brain. This is a tricky surgery for any person but my grandfather was 92 years old.
My husband and I prayed with my grandfather a man of great faith. The blood clot was the result of an auto accident a few weeks earlier. The doctor said that my grandfather should make it through with no problems but his age was a major factor. I remember saying another prayer leaving him in God’s hands as they wheeled him off to surgery. The surgery was to take about two hours, however, hospital staff advised us less than that time that all had gone well, this was approximately at 8:00a.m. EDT.
Happily my husband and I left the recovery area and went up to my grandfather’s hospital room to await his return. We were watching the Today Show when it switched to pictures of the World Trade Center – Tower 1 after the first plane hit. My husband immediately recognized the WTC but I couldn’t believe it when he said “that’s the World Trade Center” in disbelief. We watched together soon after when the second plane hit Tower 2, it is very surreal even to this day. We saw with our own eyes the plane flying into the building and felt a sinking feeling. All the joy we had earlier felt was replaced with fear and confusion.
While we sat trying to figure out what was happening, listening to very confused and scared reporters a nurse ran into the hallway screaming, “they’ve bombed the Pentagon!” I knew without fully understanding what was happening that the world as we knew it had changed forever. My mother was in the process of moving to South Carolina to help take care of my grandfather. She had just given notice to her employer at Chicago O’Hare International Airport the evening before. She clocked out of work at approximately 6:00a.m. EDT that morning, not knowing the airport would be shut down soon that morning.
So you see for me that day was filled with a bevy of emotions. There was joy for my grandfather having a successful surgery and my mom finally being able retire. But then the fear and uncertainty of seeing the WTC towers 1 and 2 collapse into bent steel and rubble. Feelings of empathy, while seeing fear and confusions on peoples faces as they walked and ran to try to make trains and ferry boats or walk the miles across the Brooklyn bridge.
I thought of all the other events in history where innocent people lost their lives. During the Middle Passage with ships filled with bound Africans, the Holocaust, the bombing of Pearl Harbor the subsequent rounding up of Japanese citizens and the ultimate atomic bomb dropping on Japan. The founding of this country with the killing of countless native North Americans just as Al Black mentioned.
U.S. citizens and humans in general are not without our own terrible acts. But this act seemed so horrific because of the extent of people killed in less than one hour. People of all races, creeds, and colors that were just trying to live their lives. I thought of the many children some without both parents and how they would make it through the rest of their lives. In addition, I thought about the countless firefighters, police, and paramedics known now as “first responders” whose lives were taken doing what they loved and were called to do.
Life is not easy. Tragedy will surface if you live long enough. Individually we cannot control planned or random acts of hate but we can control how we respond. We can take time to remember that there are other instances in our history where innocent life has been lost. Moreover, we can take time to understand those who may have different beliefs than our own. Finally, we can remain stubborn to our own ways or we can learn to respect each others differences.