Ten years ago today, nineteen terrorists killed 3,049 people in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
It unfolded on live television, watched by hundreds of millions of Americans (and, indeed, people across the globe) cementing in the minds of the viewers the tangled, confusion, horrifying and, yes, even uplifting moments of that day.
I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember where I was and what I was doing that morning. I was getting ready for work, watching Fox & Friends on the Fox News Channel.
At first, the thought was that a small plane had hit the North Tower. That was still my thought when John Scott, the Fox News commentator, said something like, "This has to be terrorism."
I remember thinking, no, it doesn't. It could just be an accident.
I left for work. By the time I got in my car, a plane had hit the South Tower as well. I apologized silently to John Scott and drove to work listening to the radio, my heart in my throat.
Twenty-five minutes later, I got to work and turned on the television that we never, ever turned on. (It was there to watch VHS tapes, back before everyone started putting videos on DVD).
We gathered in the conference room and watched the horrors one by one. The plane crashing into the Pentagon. The South Tower collapse. Then the North. Then we hear word that a fourth plane has crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
It was only later that we began hearing the small tragedies—and acts of heroism. Tragic farewells and self-sacrificial moments of great courage. I remember thinking, and have heard many times since, that the actions of the passengers of United Air Flight 93, in forcing down their plane rather than allow it to be used as a missile to kill more of their fellow Americans, was the first American victory in the war on terrorism.
As we commemorate the day in our own ways, I ask you the question that country music star Alan Jackson asked in his poignant, plainspoken song written in tribute to the losses and triumphs of that day: where were you when the world stopped turning?
Image shown: Ghosts of Manhattan, digital art I created shortly after the events of 9/11/01.