Every year, the world (except for the “Today” show, apparently) pauses for a moment to remember how everything changed on September 11, 2001. The very fabric of reality was altered that day, and countless writers, journalists, and commentators fill pages and airwaves with remembrances, speculations, predictions, and, sometimes, even real emotion. Some choose to spend the day thinking of lost loved ones, others of world policy implications, still others of where they were and what they were doing when they found out the World Trade Center towers had collapsed.
I have very vivid memories of September 11. I was working as a newspaper reporter at the time, and one of my daily duties was to drive over to the local police station and pick up a copy of the dispatch log from the day before. It was less than a five-minute drive from my office to the station, but during the time I was in my truck that day I heard a radio announcer state there was a report of a what was possibly a single-engine airplane striking the side of one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. I think I was concerned enough at this I popped a CD into my stereo and kept driving. Sure, single-engine planes cause damage, but not that much, in the grand scheme of things.
By the time I returned to the office, nearly everyone there was gathered around the old, huge, tube television that was sitting near the front of the building. Turns out it wasn’t a single-engine plane that had struck the tower; it was a passenger jet, a 747 … and the damage was significant. And then, when I had barely had time to process this turn of events, we all watched the second plane strike the second tower. I’ll never be able to adequately describe that moment. I’ve never been in a more silent room in my life. I think my blood literally turned cold. Even now, as I’m typing this, I have goosebumps up and down both arms.
Obviously, as a newspaper reporter, the majority of the rest of my day was consumed with trying to come up with some type of local angle to connect what was happening in New York City to my sleepy hometown in Kentucky. As fate would have it, though, I was also scheduled for a job interview later that afternoon, an appointment my interviewer surprisingly decided to keep. To this day, I have no idea what I said during the interview … why may account for why I didn’t get the job.
I actually don’t remember much about the rest of that day. Eleven years later, everything seems like a blur. I very plainly remember the next day, though. As I walked through the door of the small apartment my wife and I were staying in, she greeted me a look of sheer joy … and proceeded to show me a positive home pregnancy test. The day after so many people had died, we learned we would be bringing another life into the world.
I knew then and I know now that one life could never replace the many lives that were lost on that day. What I didn’t realize that day was that all over the world people were experiencing the same type of joy I was. New life was coming into the world, no matter how hard certain people already here were trying to snuff it out. For all the endings of 9-11, 9-12 was all about new beginnings. They may not have all been happy beginnings, but in the aftermath of a tragedy of that magnitude there is no other place to start.
So every year on 9-11, I think of 9-12, realizing that while the past that is behind me can be hurtful to the core, tomorrow could mark a brand new beginning. And life will go on.