On the morning of September 11, 2001 my husband was still working as the Chief of Police and we were up early preparing for him to go on duty. I recall what a outstandingly beautiful day it was with clear sapphire blue Colorado skies and not a cloud to be seen. As I was fixing breakfast, the phone rang and it was a friend who lives just a few blocks from us. She seemed very excited and told me to turn on the television, which I immediately did as she hung up. And there it was, the first plane had just smashed into the tower in New York City. Of course, I watched the rest of it alone with horrified eyes as my husband had to hit the street for his job.
I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing or what was happening, but I remember the fear, anxiety and pure shock of that dreadful day. I have never forgotten the sight of people screaming and running as one tragedy after another took place. And the thing that still stands out most clearly in my mind was that the color of nobody’s skin mattered to anyone else. People of all races and religions had their arms around each other and were helping or comforting one another as they struggled to find a safe haven. We were all just Americans under siege and nothing else mattered in the least. It was a beautiful display of the real human soul.
The police were not hated that day. They were welcomed by any and everyone, as were firemen, EMTs and all other first responders who were rushing toward and into the ravaged sights instead of running away. It takes a special kind of person to even be able to do that, which they all are to this day. So many gave their lives that day, both as victims of the attacks and others for trying to help. Tragic as it was, it was a magnificent display of how differences disappear during times of terror and need in this country – land of the free and home of the brave.
My friend and fellow author, John M. Wills, wrote a book called “The Nightstand Collection” and has his personal story in it about this event. He was an FBI agent at Quantico at the time and worked as peer counselor at the Pentagon after it was hit and then at Shanksville, Pennsylvania the next day where United Airlines 93 was flown into the ground by the brave passengers who chose to die rather than allow more destruction to their beloved country. Personally, I will always remember passenger Todd Beamer’s war cry of “Let’s roll!” The title of that particular chapter in John’s book is “Nothing Left”. I read it to my husband this morning and he had tears in his eyes when I looked up.
I saved a Life Magazine from that day and it’s interesting that the people on the cover and throughout the pictures are all the same color because they were absolutely covered with that smothering gray soot. Makes you stop and think what that symbolized, doesn’t it?