There are moments in our lives we never forget. For many of us, the moments are joyful and cause to celebrate — the birth of a child, a graduation, a wedding.
But, so many generations have an unforgettable moment marked by tragedy. As I grew up, the tragic moment of my parents’ generation was remembered with this question: Where were you when you heard about JFK’s assassination? Although this terrible saga in American history occurred before I was born, the emotional weight of it is apparent in every ready answer from among those who lived through the tragedy. It was an event so shocking – so calculated to strike at our emotional foundations – that no one could forget where they’d been when they heard the news; a moment so cold it burned itself into our collective memories.
On September 11, 2001, a new question was presented to my generation: “Where were you when …?” The words that followed “when” were too many and too painful – when the first plane struck the World Trade Center, when the Pentagon was hit, when United 93 went down, when the first tower fell and then the second. Ask me to recall what I did last Monday, and I could give only scant details. Yet still today, I can recall even the smallest details of how my day unfolded on September 11, 2001. And, my heartache was limited to the loss of a naive sense of safety. I cannot begin to imagine what this day recalls for the hearts and minds of those who lost much, much more that day.
To those who lost their lives in this tragedy, and to their families, friends and loved ones; to those who volunteered their lives in service to this country in the aftermath of 9/11, and to their families, friends and loved ones —