My phone kept ringing the morning of September 11th as I worked with a client. I finally answered and learned the first airplane had hit the World Trade Center; and then the second. I quickly concluded the appointment and watched the news. I then walked outside, and despite the beautiful fall day, my suburban DC neighborhood was eerily quiet. There were no airplanes or helicopters overhead; no dogs were walked and no children played outside. No cars entered my neighborhood. It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that family and neighbors began returning home and we learned what they had experienced and what they knew.
As a native New Yorker and a Northern Virginia resident, I felt hit on both ends. When visiting my family in California, I had taken that same flight from Dulles that hit the Pentagon. My family and friends that worked at or near the World Trade Center and the Pentagon escaped injury on September 11th; but friends of friends did not.
The experience of that day was our conversation for a long time. I flew out of Reagan National when it finally re-opened; how frightening to pass the armed guards stationed all over the airport. How disturbing when told we could not get out of our seats for any reason for thirty minutes after takeoff and for thirty minutes prior to landing. Pity the little boy and the old man that had to use the restroom but couldn’t.
The first time I drove by the Pentagon, I was shocked by the devastation. Months later, when the site was cleared, the Pentagon looked like a cake missing a big slice. It’s been so well repaired that when I drive by now, I sometimes can’t remember where the airplane hit.
Manhattan is my second home but I just couldn’t go to the World Trade Center site when visiting. And then on a business trip three years ago, arrangements were made for me to stay at a hotel adjacent to “Ground Zero.” It was heartbreaking to visit the temporary memorial and see the gaping hole that was once the World Trade Center. On subsequent visits, I’ve watched as the new building rises and the memorial takes shape. During my last trip in June, I walked to Tribeca and saw a part of the site with six cranes, just now under construction. The sheer size and sense of devastation was palpable. While others went about their business, I wept silently.
In the ten years since September 11th, our lives have drastically changed. Terrorism is part of our news each day. Whether we travel or connect with the media, we are reminded of the threat; a fact we can’t escape. And if we let our guard down, a new security warning, an explosion, the arrest of a terrorist cell, or the capture of highly sought suspects reminds us of our altered state.
On this tenth anniversary, I will mourn all the lives that have been lost to terrorism. And I will pray; that those with different religious views find tolerance, that this world will someday be at peace, and the generations yet to come will somehow manage to make a better world.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.