I still remember, though I was a child, the shock of that tragic day
when the radio announcer cried out the news that JFK passed away.
And in this writing I reflect back on another such unforgettable loss,
the day that the Twin Towers slid from the skyline to street-level dust.
With the Today Show on my bedroom TV revealing a live-footage backdrop
I saw the second plane hit the south tower on that screen in real time shock,
and I watched each tower give into the heat and billow down into dust.
Oh how the sight of the first jet, joined now with the falling north tower, pierced my soul.
On the West Coast I was up early at home calling Back East to give software support,
but no one from the Manhattan office was on that side of our weekly call.
We were unsure of their exact location or just how widespread the destruction
as we conferred alone on our coast, hung up, and to the office we rushed.
Traveling managers were stranded across the nation in every airport,
frantically cell phone calling from tarmacs, all planes held on the ground.
A man pulled me into his office, his sister had been rescheduled from one of those flights,
but that old flight number on his email, how close it came to her, I saw the tears in his eyes.
We learned of the gift to our nation by a jet of young patriots over Pennsylvania state,
whose quiet cell phone calls had exposed the dire deed planned next for their fate.
With the famed words “let’s roll” they joined together resolutely and bravely
to trade their own lives to save those in D.C. at the address of 1600 Pennsylvania.
Our project involved customer database training for major account managers,
and we queried the World Trade Center building addresses that were so familiar.
We gravely watched the customer names scroll past who had lost their lives that day,
and thought of the bleak chore that would come later to take those names away.
For me, it was not enough to have the memory of what I saw on TV,
so that December I flew to New York to walk Ground Zero, alone, silently.
On the way from the subway I tripped and hit my knee on the curb,
and I wondered how many workers who survived did so too as they fled.
There were crowds solemnly paying the same homage as I,
our communal pain still raw and stinging in our tearful eyes.
We walked ever so gently with reverence through the dust underfoot
for it contained the essence of thousands on their last day of work.
I walked a full circle around Ground Zero to see it from all angles,
and walked over to Wall Street to confirm that it was not very far,
and to Battery Park where I glanced out at the Statue of Liberty
and thought of the horrors witnessed that day as she held up her torch.
Leaving from JFK Airport the lines of travelers were long and foreboding,
as those in charge struggled with the process to safely transport us through the air.
I still swear an angel walked me over to use a forgotten kiosk to shorten my waiting
and I turned humbly away as a fellow traveler was strip-searched quite bare.
There are numbers that have been transformed with special meaning for us,
flight and address numbers, history counted in minutes, and the accounting of all lost.
9-1-1 an emergency hotline number that is now known as a date,
and when I see these or hear them spoken I still flash back to that day.
How do we, in finality, tally the roll call and the role of the names
of those lost in New York, or those in D.C. and in Pennsylvania,
and of those who rushed to the Towers to save them that day,
or those who perished with them or even later after cleaning that place?
This year, 2009, I still don’t believe it is eight years in the past,
and I know that each year I won’t believe it, the same as the last.
Though it will slowly fade from the newspapers and the evening news
that day has been burned into my memory, with all its sorrows and blues.
So for me, please spend a moment of silence when you finish reading these words,
for the souls silenced that day just because they worked in the towers of New York.
2,605 reasons to say “I love you” each day before you leave for work;
2,605 lives and their silent summons for unity and peace on this earth.