Written By: Adam Dince
September 11th 2001 is my generation’s, “Do you remember where you were when…” moment, and for me as many others—one of the most painful moments of my life. No, I wasn’t one of the bravest that ran into burning buildings to save lives, nor was I at ground zero to provide comfort to the rescue workers who were running on empty.
Back on 9/11/01, I was just a poor college student attending San Diego State University and working full-time to support myself. As usual on the weekdays, Howard Stern woke me up at 6:30am as his show was the voice of my alarm clock. However, instead of the light-hearted banter that was typical on the Stern show—there was a much more serious tone in everyone’s voice.
I recall coming into consciousness hearing Howard describing planes flying in to the World Trade Center towers. I thought to myself, “this isn’t funny, why would he be joking about something like this?” Then a caller dialed in who said that people were stranded on the Brooklyn Bridge and leaving their cars behind to flee for safety. I leapt out of bed and ran into the living room to turn on the news. This couldn’t be true. It had to be a “War of the Worlds” type of hoax.
And there they were… the burning towers. I began to sob and sobbed heavily… I lost track of time. New York City, the city that raised my mother and father—the city that I spent so much of my childhood in, was in flames. I grabbed my phone and tried calling my family in Manhattan, but the lines were jammed. I felt so helpless that I might lose some of them and couldn’t do anything about it. Then a few moments later—the south tower collapsed. I was so alone and in desperate need of being with people.
I showed up to work about 8:30ish in the morning. When I walked through the lobby door, no one was at their desks. I found my way to the kitchen area where Ron, Candace, Jan, Don and Don, Mario, and a few others were gathered around the small television set. We all watched and cried in disbelief. Our emotions ranged from shock, to anger, to despair. We asked, “How could this be happening in the USA?” “How could this be happening in New York?” “Who is doing this to us?”
A few days after 9/11, we were back to our regular work routines, but with a careful ear to the news playing on the TV in the kitchen. President Bush was speaking to the tired and drained rescue workers at Ground Zero. The pain I felt was so unbearable, so much so that I couldn’t watch the President’s speech. Just the sight of the Trade Center ruins sunk me deeper into my depression. However, in the middle of Bush’s address to the rescue workers, a few of them began shouting, “U.S.A…. U.S.A…. U.S.A….” Seconds later, everyone joined in. The few of us that could hear the speech ran into the kitchen started shouting too! We cried, we held hands, and we replaced some of our sorrow and fear with a sense of patriotism that we had all seemed to have forgotten in the midst of our busy lives. On September 11th, we all became New Yorkers.
9/11/2001 was not only a day of great tragedy; it was also a day where the value system in America changed—if only for just a little while. Our children changed their admiration of their celebrity superstars to the brave men and women who valiantly raced up and down endless flights of stairs to save lives. Politicians put aside their partisan bickering and held hands in the center of the Senate floor. Families who were falling apart at the seams, found the thread that would somehow hold them together. The National Anthem meant a little more to us than it did on September 10th. And I was ready to leave behind my dreams of finishing college to go fight the enemy, if so called.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since our great nation and our way of life was attacked by the terrorists. My only hope is that it doesn’t take another horrible tragedy to unite us like we did on that September morning. I love this great country! My heart, soul and admiration still goes out to the 9/11 responders… to those who lost loved ones, to those were permanently injured by debris—and as a proud Navy Veteran, to our servicemen and women who continue to give their lives in battle. May 9/11 always be a day that we remember with great humbleness, humility and patriotism. May we never forget what happened.
“O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave. O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” – Francis Scott Key