Yesterday marked a day 13 years ago on which the world changed for all of us. Time forever more to be marked as “before” those terrible events and “after” them. Where my parents’ generation used “before” and “after” in referring to The War, and their parents remembered “The (stock market) Crash,” we and our children have had to adapt to the selfish and senseless brutality of a small group of fanatics determined to take the world back to a more primitive time when people were slaughtered because of their religious beliefs.
We remember vividly where we were and what we were doing as those events unfolded. I was sitting at my desk on Neville Island near downtown Pittsburgh. Local fears were concentrated on Flight 91, originally headed for the West Coast and then turned back east. Was it aimed at another symbol of American economic power, i.e., the U.S. Steel building? Its eventual crash near Shanksville, PA allowed us to breathe easier, but left us numb at the loss of even more of our fellow citizens.
Our crew elected to keep working, so I drove home and returned with a small television to be used in the cafeteria. Between that and the radio coverage we tried to keep informed, but information and misinformation were hard to separate. I recall being very angry, but frustrated as to where to direct that anger. Other than hugging your family and saying prayers for the dead and their loved ones, there wasn’t much to do but watch the depressing stories on television.
We had a prearranged visit to a customer facility in Dearborn, Michigan on Thursday, September 13th. As flying was not an option, we drove instead — through Ohio and into Michigan — past hundreds of flags flying at half-staff. Dearborn, as you may know, has the highest percentage of Islamic residents of any U.S. city. Detroit’s major airport is named after a former mayor — of Lebanese birth. Dearborn’s flags were flying low, too, and its citizens were as outraged as any other Americans. We were moved to participate in a moment of silence that morning with the multicultural staff of the steel mill.
Our country was united in mourning the dead and injured 13 years ago. Amazing stories of heroism and sacrifice raised our spirits in the days and weeks that followed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sustain that sense of unity once the finger pointing and revenge-seeking started. Things were said and actions taken that are hard to put aside — even today. Time for us will always be cleaved into “before” September 11, 2001 — and “after.”
It will never be just another day on the calendar again. A lot of prayers are needed for our world to heal.