September 11, 2001 is a day Americans will never forget. It’s a date ingrained in our minds like December 7, 1941, that peaceful Sunday when the United States was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor.
People ask one another, “Where were you when the planes hit the twin towers?” just like they ask (if you’re old enough), “What were you doing when President Kennedy was assassinated?”
Thinking back to any of those shocking days evokes deep-rooted but raw emotions. As we remember the 10th anniversary of one of the most frightening days we’ve experienced as a nation, I believe words cannot adequately express the feelings and emotions many of us vividly recall.
My family did not experience personal loss that day, but the magnitude of the loss of others affected us in such a profound way. A family friend worked at the Pentagon, but blessedly escaped harm. A couple of my family have visited Ground Zero in New York since that fateful day, but I have not.
Traveling through Pennsylvania on vacation two years after the attack, our family found our way to the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville. We parked our car in a gravel lot and quietly stepped out of the vehicle. As soon as my feet touched the soil there, I felt an indescribable wave of sorrow wash over me, and I fought to restrain sobs of grief that battled my restriction and seemed desperate to escape from my throat.
As we walked toward the many makeshift memorials left there by thousands of visitors, there wasn’t a sound. No one spoke. Everyone there just silently viewed the surroundings or quietly asked a question from the volunteer who manned the site.
Nature had healed the field where the crash took place and it was recovered with grass. You wouldn’t have realized a jet liner crash once had scarred the landscape if you hadn’t known what took place there.
But a huge wall attached to chain link fencing told the story. Even now, I struggle with words to adequately describe it and what my family felt that summer day in 2003 when we visited. So I offer as a means of remembrance this picture I took back then of the ‘memorial wall’ erected in a field near the small town of Shanksville.
For the families of those lost in the catastrophe 10 years ago, the survivors, and the valiant and heroic responders, I remember you this day on Page 11, Chapter 9, of my book called Opportunity and I keep you in my prayers. May God give you comfort and peace this day.