December 7, 1941: “A date which will live in infamy.”
November 23, 1963: The world watched a little boy salute his father’s coffin.
September 11, 2001: “Terrorism against our nation will not stand.”
I debated about whether or not to write this post. Today is the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. (I posted a photo of my parents standing in front of the Twin Towers this morning.) But I’m sure you already knew that. For weeks, the media has promoted special events and commemorations. “Today, we remember,” is a mantra splashed across every social channel. Would anyone care about my thoughts? Or would my words just be noise in the chaos?
On September 11, 2001, dawn was rising over the Bay Area with a declared new enemy of the free world. Ten years ago, I was 20. I was a week away from starting my senior year of college.
The phone rang. I ignored it. I’d gotten home late; the Oakland A’s had played a night game (I was the marketing intern). The phone rang again. I felt someone shaking my shoulder, “Tricia. Tricia, wake up. Turn on the TV. Something’s happened in New York.”
I have never been to New York. I had no friends or family there. But I sat there riveted by the footage on the news – the white plumes of smoke and gray falling ashes made me gasp for air from 3,000 miles away.
Jon had just moved to the East Coast. He had the television on in the background as he prepared to go to his 9 a.m. class. We did not know each other yet.
Without thinking, I picked up my phone and called a friend who had just been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. “Does this mean war?” I asked the moment he answered the phone.
“I don’t know,” he replied quietly. “But it wouldn’t surprise me.” And with that sentence, the world would never be the same.
I drove to work along the sparsely populated freeway, numb to the nation’s situation. I listened to the news on the radio – there were mentions of additional threats. I wondered about bridges as I looked up to take in the San Francisco skyline in the distance – the Bay Bridge framing my view.
My boss called. “Jim Bloom here. MLB canceled all games. Go home. Be with your family.” (Tangent: Have you read “Moneyball” about the 2001 Oakland Athletics? I am the unnamed intern. Just ask – I’m happy to sign copies.)
I was expecting many of my friends to being arriving for school that week. It was then that I realized that the impact of the nation’s worst terror attack on home soil had arms reaching across the country. Deora Bodley was one of the many Santa Clara University students preparing for the upcoming year. She was on Flight 93. I had never met her, but it suddenly became personal.
Life goes on. It is not the same, it is not different – it is ever changing, moving forward. On September 12, the drunk Oakland Raider football fans, painted silver and black, were back in my booth, “flirting” as I edged away from them (muttering about those who’d gotten their sports wrong.) I worked the crowds (at the Oakland A’s baseball game) – asking for fans opinions about the new stadium Internet access. (They in turn, ignored me or ordered a beer.)
Regardless of your political leanings or the conspiracy theories you hold, today is a day to simply reflect and honor those gone too soon and love the ones who are still here.
I debated about whether or not to write this post. But I remember something I once heard. Everyone dies three deaths.
The first is the hardest – the physical death. This is when the departed is no longer there to see, hear and touch. Not that I have any citable evidence, but I hear this is difficult only for those left behind.
The second death is when those left behind let go and move ahead. This is what we’ve done for a decade – the grief and sadness will never leave those directly touched, but they live their lives. Live. To honor those who’ve left.
The third is the final death – the saddest. This is the one we should all truly mourn. And that is when there is no one left to remember.
So in their honor, I remember. It is only once we forget that history is doomed to repeat itself.
Where were you?