So, here's my story: On the morning of September 11th, I was sitting at my desk at St. Joseph's Catholic Church. At the time, I worked for the parish as Director of Activities and my office was adjacent to the school's gym. A co-worker called to tell me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Immediately, I turned on the television and within minutes, several of my colleagues and friends gathered in my office to watch the coverage. We watched in horror as the second plane struck the south tower. About 30 minutes later, we learned that another plane crashed into the Pentagon. After that, I drove across the street to the Rectory and spent time with our pastor, Fr. Dan Cody and his family from Ireland to watch the news coverage. I left after the second tower collapsed and drove to the University of North Florida for my class on Early America. That day, the professor began class by discussing the tragedy and then allowing anyone who wished to leave to do so. For those of us who remained, he asked that we continue on with our studies so as not to give in to terrorists hoping to disrupt our way of life. Shortly after class ended, we learned that the campus would close and that classes for the day were cancelled. I returned to the parish, cancelled all parish meetings scheduled for that day and contacted ministry directors and the media to inform them that a Mass of Remembrance would be offered that night. Like any American, the day was filled with so much emotion and disbelief. Only in my early 20s, I had not experienced a national tragedy such as this. Given the technological advances of modern media, this tragedy was not transmitted just by simple news reports as was the case with Pearl Harbor. Ordinary American citizens were witnesses to the destruction and carnage experienced by their fellow Americans in New York, Washington and on Flight 93. With advances like cellular phones, family members were able to speak with some of the victims before they perished. This is what makes this tragedy so different and why this anniversary touches each of us.
This ten-year anniversary is a time for remembrance and for healing. I imagine that in forty years when we commemorate the 50th anniversary, more time will be spent discussing and writing about the significance of September 11th and how it was a critical turning point in American History. Right now, the political debates since 9/11 are still too relevant to present a true, un-biased history of the responses to the attacks. Instead, now is the time to tell the story of that day - a day of despair, but also a day of courage, heroism and sacrifice especially for those that gave their lives so that others might live. I hope that with this anniversary, we reclaim that sense of unity we had as Americans in the days following these attacks and join together to remember, to pray for those affected and together, to heal.
So that we never forget what happened that day, I close this post with links to pictures, stories and information about the attacks. These are the primary sources that we as historians must gather to understand this event better. As with any historical event, and especially a tragedy such as this, these sources serve as the artifacts of our human story - our experience. Without understanding the human story, we cannot truly appreciate the event. As historians, now is the time to lay the ground work so that future generations truly "remember."
"We Remember." "We Shall Never Forget."
- Timeline for the day of the September 11th Attacks (Wikipedia)
- Primary Sources and Teaching Resources (American Institute for History Education)
- 9/11 Day that Changed the World (Smithsonian Channel)
- September 11: Bearing Witness to History (National Museum of American History)
- Library of Congress 9/11 Documentary Project: Children's Stories / 9-11 through the drawings of Children)
- National 9/11 Memorial in New York City