Once again, we approach that date on the calendar that many of us will always remember as one when we experienced feelings of fear, tragedy, total confusion, outrage and patriotism all in one day. September 11, 2001 for our generation will be like another generation’s Pearl Harbor, and as we approach the thirteenth anniversary of that date, I just hope it is not an omen of things to come.
I’ll never forget that sunny morning while driving to work on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when my cell phone rang and I noticed on the digital screen that the call was coming from my home. Just having left only a few minutes earlier, my first thoughts were of what I had forgotten or what my wife was suggesting for me to purchase on my way home. Instead it was a call that changed us all for a very long time.
Of course, she was calling to tell me of the fire at the World Trade Center, and at that time only one tower had been damaged and the news reports were unclear as to what had happened. I hurried to my office and turned on the TV located in our communications area in time to see the second tower struck by another plane. By now, my office had filled with other employees staring in shock as news reports came in from Washington, D.C., New York City, Pennsylvania and other cities involved in the attacks against our country.
What had started as a beautiful, clear, usual day in the Volunteer State thirteen years ago had suddenly turned into one of the most shocking days of our lives. Terrorists had used commercial airliners as missiles to attack the United States of America. Even though not officially declared, we were at war.
One of the ladies in our office spoke with her elderly mother who was at home alone. Being concerned for her mother at a time like this, she asked her how she was doing after hearing all of the news reports. Her mother told her in a very shaky voice, “It reminds me of the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. The only thing was we did not have to watch the attack on television and see the people die.”
Those words sent a chill over me and probably will remain with me as a memory of that day forever. Just like the assassination of President Kennedy, November 22, 1963, I will always remember where I was and what I was doing. Like the elderly mother of my co-worker, the only difference of that event and the horror we saw September 11, is we did not watch it firsthand as it happened.
As I sat there watching the rescue efforts and the news reporters hurrying to the scene, I noticed a small wooden calendar I have on top of my office TV. The calendar is made of a series of wooden blocks that you change to form the date. I had changed the calendar for the day, which read 9-11. How appropriate that the date that this country will remember forever was the call numbers for help - 911.
I have had to use those numbers the last thirteen years myself. I’ve called for help when my father suffered a heart attack and died in my arms, as well as other times, and you never forget something like that. The fear that you have as you punch in those numbers is a fear that cannot be explained by words. As I sat helpless, watching the horror in New York that September day 13 years ago, that same fear appeared. A fear not only for those killed or injured, but also a fear for our country.
When the Japanese planes returned to their carriers after bombing Pearl Harbor, it is said that the commander of the Japanese fleet made the remark that he was afraid that what they had done would mean they would lose everything they had due to awakening a sleeping giant. I believe those terrorists who struck 9-11 awakened that giant once again thirteen years ago, but so often, giants have the habit of dozing off every now and then. I just hope it is not in the process of rubbing its eyes for a nap these days, but instead is wide awake and will always remember the day of 9-11.
The 911 numbers were called on that September day and we must never forget the fear we felt. That fear caused us to act and we are not through handling that 911 call. I hope you are still remembering 9-11 this month and continue to stand proud for our country in the days ahead. Never forget!
May God bless America and always keep her awake.
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com