12 years ago today I was headed to school in Tampa (my one semester stint at the University of South Florida)... the radio station that I listened to during my commute was famous for pranks and practical jokes. As I listened to reports of the planes crashing into the towers, I couldn't help but think what a screwed up prank this was. I thought the DJ sounded more serious than usual, but I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea that it could possibly be real. It was a sick joke. It had to be a sick joke. Something so awful would never happen here- in the US. It just couldn't. Could it?
I got to school and saw students and teachers huddled around TVs with looks of shock, disbelief and well... shock. Some looked scared, some were crying openly, some were just so stunned they didn't know what to do. I got word that classes were cancelled and headed back to Orlando. I actually ended up going in to work that day (I was a lifeguard at Disney at the time) since they were placed on high alert and needed extra hands. After work, I went to my friend's apartment where we sat, glued to the TV, listening to the live reports and rescue efforts and watching the list of names scroll through. I sobbed for hours.
So many names.
Two thousand nine hundred and ninety six of my American brothers and sisters.
The pictures and videos of the scenes in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania took my breath away. The "Missing" posters with pictures of babies. BABIES. were almost too much. Imagining those families still clinging to a shred of hope was just awful. The stories of heroism made me proud and the miraculous recoveries gave me hope. But the devastation, the tragedy, the heartbreak was just so overwhelming.
How could this happen? WHY did this happen?
Even now, 12 years and 2 wars later, we still have many questions. Questions that we will likely never have answers to.
We learn more every day and we live a new normal now. Few aspects of our lives are left unaffected by the tragedy that occurred 12 years ago today. Even now, at times, it is difficult to remember what it was like before 9/11. Sadly, our children will never know a world without terrorism at the forefront. But hopefully they will never have to experience the same fear and heart break that we collectively shared on that day either.
Today, we pause to mourn, remember and reflect. Today, I will be reading through this long list of names and I will pray for them, pray for their families. I will mourn for them and cry for them. I encourage you to look at this list. The sheer size alone is pretty powerful and so very sad.
Read their names, speak their names, do something kind today in their honor. Most of all, ensure that they are not forgotten.