By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor.
On this fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks millions in the United States and the world reflect back on those terrible events, where we were, and how it affected each of us in our own unique ways–but sharing of course a familiar story. My own family certainly was not an exception.
If our experience can be summed into one word, I cannot find one more telling of how we avoided tragedy:
For me news of the events came forth in a telephone call from my mother asking me to turn on the television. She told me that one of the twin towers was hit by an aircraft and it was certainly a terrorist attack. I turned on the set and within five or so minutes of watching the live recording I saw one of the towers fall. I’ve seen horrific events in my life but this sight was one of the most unsettling I experienced–thinking in my mind that I probably witnessed the murder of perhaps a thousand people at that moment.
We all are familiar with the particulars of the events affecting each of us in some way. I to this day will turn the channel if the towers’ collapse is shown.
As the events went by we later learned of the Pentagon attack. I thought of my Brother-in-Law who works there. My wife tried over the hours to contact him and her family to find out if he was still with us and uninjured. But so was everyone else as the phone lines were relentlessly unavailable.
Greatly fortunate to us about twelve hours later he finally was able to call us.
For my brother-in-law he completed his work in a particular node of the Pentagon and walked to another assignment elsewhere. The section he originally worked at was struck by the hijacked aircraft, minutes after he left that area. He reflected how he heard a thunderous noise, blackness, dust and chaos. People shouting and trying to recover. He understandably did not share too many details, but I admire him for enduring such events and continuing on rather undaunted. Part of the reason we waited so long to hear from him was that since the Metro was closed down, he needed to walk several miles home.
Luck and a few minutes saved my brother-in-law.
Simultaneously that day, the husband of my wife’s cousin shared a 9/11 fate.
He is an executive with a re-insurance company, headquartered at the top of Tower Two at the World Trade Center. His eldest son worked as an intern that summer at their office and returned to college that fall. While he would be normally working in the office that day, he instead travelled out of town on company business and missed the attack. In another fortune, a senior executive for the company was late for work on 9/11 and arrived late. His chauffer let him off in front of the tower and awaited him to enter. The executive grabbed the door handle and felt the violent shaking of the building. He returned to his chauffer who drove him out of harm’s way. All of the other employees in the office that day perished.
On our home front, the resulting economic turmoil over the later months required my wife to change professions.
A few weeks after the attacks, as previously scheduled, we travelled to the D.C. area to visit our family. My wife’s parents are interred at Arlington Cemetery, overlooking the Pentagon. We visited their gravesite from which we could see the blackened destruction of the section of the Pentagon of which her brother worked. Some photos from that day:
There were many concurrent funerals and memorial services of 9/11 victims throughout the cemetery. For one of the fallen, we were told a colonel in the USAF (Robert Hymel I would later Learn), a B-52 flew overhead to commemorate his passing. Those Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and all others are a credit to those who serve us, having made such a painful sacrifice.
Let us never forget.
By Darren Smith
Own Work © 2001, Darren Smith
33: flag raising
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