Much like everyone else, I still remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I was at work, at a company called Progressive Communications International in Lake Mary, FL.
One of my coworkers, Gilbert Cauthorn, regularly listened to news/talk radio on headphones. He gave us the report that the first plane had struck, and it didn’t even seem real, especially since we’d not seen any pictures at that point. It must have either been some guy with a death wish or a plane that simply went down, I remember thinking to myself. After all, we were the United States, and certainly no one would do anything that brash and calculated on our own soil.
Then the second plane hit, and by that point it was obvious to everyone what was happening. I was later to find out that a former coworker of mine at a local radio station had recently moved to New York to work in the Wall Street Journal building, which I understand is very close by. His account of that day is harrowing.
About two weeks after 9/11 I flew out to the area to see some of my clients in the greater New York area. This particular auto dealer, Paul Miller, dealt in high-end cars such as Bentley, Rolls-Royce, BMW, Land Rover, Porsche and more. Out of the goodness of his heart, he was taking back just-purchased vehicles (with no penalty) for people whose spouses had perished or been injured during the tragedy, who could no longer afford these big-ticket purchases. Very impressive, indeed.
That night, I decided to attend the New Jersey Devils NHL hockey game. It was their home opener – and I felt very privileged to be there. While the entire country mourned, it was nothing like the feelings experienced by those who lived right there in the immediate area.
Before the game began, there was a moment of silence honoring those whose lives were lost. Fifteen thousand people, and you could hear a pin drop. It was amazingly quiet, other than the tears being shed by those who felt a sense of loss. I had everything I could do to keep my own composure.
They also brought out the spouses of heroic firefighters who did not survive the ordeal. Again, the place was thick with emotion.
During the first intermission, they played a tape-delay of President Bush’s message to the country. A completely impromptu “USA … USA … USA!” chant broke out, and a mixture of pride and sadness filled my heart.
I guess what I am trying to say is, it was an unforgettable honor to be there. Eight years later, I still remember all of it vividly. Tomorrow, I’ll say a prayer for those who lost family members, friends and loved ones. I’ll give my well wishes to people like Paul Miller, who sacrificed a great deal for those who needed it – when they needed it most. And I’ll look back upon my trip to New York with a bittersweet feeling that will never leave me as long as I’m alive.