Running & Remembering 9/11 in D.C.
The moment I found out
On our very long 20-mile run this weekend, we needed something to get our minds off achy knees and blistered toes. We talked about movies and first kisses and also, our memories of 9/11. I spoke of being in as sophomore college class, Sociology 101, next to my friend Lindsay. Our teacher, normally a jokester, told us what had happened -- assured us that this was no joke. We didn't know what to think or what to do. The rest of the day is a blur. I remember walking through the student union where they had TVs set up everywhere and piles of people watched them silently -- mouths gaping, eyes horrified, hands on their hearts. It was a confusing day, a day where nothing really made sense and we went to bed with heavy hearts.
The gravity of the situation didn't hit me until the next day when I saw on TV the thousands of notes hanging on cork boards in NYC with names and photos of missing people, when I saw the infamous photo of a man jumping to his death, vidoes of people waving white flags out of the higher up floors. It hit me hardest, believe it or not, when I watched Oprah the next week and she managed to get families on the show. I sobbed continuously for at least an hour. The horror was unimaginable. When I ran into people on campus, it was dreary. No one even asked "how are you?" or "how is your day?" We all already knew the answers.
Living with 9/11
Over and over, I imagined the people who had died. I would say, this time yesterday, this time three days ago, this time last week, this time last month....they were getting up and ready for the day. They were packing lunches and going to the gym and kissing their kids good night. They had no idea. They were saying to themselves, why did I get to work early today? Others were saying, what if I hadn't been running late? What if I didn't take that sick day, cancel that flight, change my vacation days...that what ifs were staggering, neverending, heartbreaking.
Countless times since then I've watched the footage -- the live coverage of newscasters covering when the second plane hit is unbelievable. I've listened to tapes of phone calls of people calling their loved ones from the planes and the buildings. It's too hard to do that, really. You just can't. There probably isn't a day that goes by that 9/11 -- some way or some form -- enters my mind. Our country, in a way, revolves around that day now. We will not let that happen again and we function in a way that will hopefully prevent it.
Why its amazing to run in Washington, DC
The best thing about the run was that it went through D.C. -- all the way around and over Capitol Hill. To see the American flags flying gloriously around the Washington Monument in the blue-sky and sunshine one day before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was chilling. In fact, heading back to our running start, we began to see massive, oversized flags hanging from building after building. Facing the sky, showing the world that we will NOT forget that day. We will remember and honor our heroes. We are not afraid and evil NOT win. It was a truly somber weekend -- but we made it through -- and we've done an amazing job thwarting more of those kinds of attacks since that day. Bravery was never more alive than that day, when firefighters gave their lives to help save others and we stood together to lift our fellow citizens up in prayer and comfort and love.
Talking about that kind of took away the fatigue of the running. My knee hurt but that was okay. Afterwards, I went home an iced and like that day ten years ago, turned on the news and just kind of stared for a little bit. Listening. Listening to people tell their 9/11 story, listening to a little girl talk about her mom a hero who died in the towers when she was only 2. I read the endless names at the bottom of the screen. What struck me was the middle names. We never use our middle names but on this roll, they did. I heard a woman dedicate the day to her brother. I heard a crowd of people singing "Amazing Grace." I heard America come together again.
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