9/11 And Beyond: What Matters the Most

| September 11, 2012

Today marks the 11th anniversary to the day the New York Twin towers collapsed and terror was unleashed on the American public by Al Qaida terrorists. I remember distinctly where I was when the first plane hit.

I was on watch on the top deck of the USS Eisenhower in the United States Navy. I remember the panic and fear I felt when we were mustered and briefed on what was happening. The US was under attack and we were to remain alert at our posts – just in case. I believe we were put on code red which meant that all hands were on deck. No one could leave the ship, and those who were off-duty were called to duty. And for the first time since the beginning of my navy career I felt what it meant to be a soldier – what it meant to be alert and on guard and terrified.

When the second plane hit we watched in horror. I was relieved from my post just in time to make it to the departmental office where we watched things as they unfolded. Then the Pentagon got hit and it was sheer panic. Then came the pictures – people flying from tall buildings (the picture of the “flying man” still haunts me to this day. All I can think is what was going through his head as he made his way down to his death), dust and smoke everywhere, people running for dear life and the first responders started out on what would become a heroic and sad job of clean up and rescue.

But most of all, I remember the calm that followed; the moment when no one said a word and all was silent as we wondered, “what next”? I remember the unity that brought Americans from all walks of life together. And I remember the common feeling we had to right this grizzly wrong that had been done to our beloved democracy. We grieved as a nation 11 years ago.

Today, 11 years later, the grief is just as strong as I visit the memories of our dark history. I’m humbled as I remember the lives that were lost both on those flights and on the ground. And I’m reminded that life is short. All is vanity. A life well lived is one that lives on even in death. Long after I’m gone and the mourning is over, how do I want to be remembered? The kinds of shoes I wore, the car I drove, or where I lived won’t matter anymore. What will matter is how I lived my life. How I touched the lives of others. How I gave of myself and my time because I cared. That I forgave and never looked back. That I loved without regret. These are the things that will live on. These are the things that will matter.

Where were you this day 11 years ago and, how did it impact your life? Please share your stories below.    

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