Yesterday marked the 14th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center. For Americans, it was an emotional day as we remembered the many thousands who died that day, and the hundreds of first responders who have since suffered–both physical ailments and emotional distress. Personally, I had a difficult time settling my mind, but I kept coming back to one thought over and over–never forget.
On that September day 14 years ago, I was in London attending a conference. I recall very clearly… it was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and a colleague from Austria rushed up to me and announced that the Twin Towers in New York had been destroyed. My initial reaction was that it was a sick joke, but his face told me otherwise. Unable to concentrate on business, I left the conference center and walked across the street to a pub.
A TV was playing CNN. That’s when I first saw the video of the two planes slamming into the towers, and then the inevitable collapse. Somehow the bartender knew I was American, and placed a pint in front of me, no charge.
With the airspace closed, I was unable to fly home, and have never felt so removed from my family and helpless. The next day, the entire city of London stopped at 11 AM for a moment of silence. It was eerie, and the memory still chokes me up. I was exiting a subway station at that moment, and I am not exaggerating to say that everyone just stopped, stood still, and bowed their heads.
Three days later I was able to catch a flight, and en route to Heathrow Airport my taxi driver tried to strike up a conversation. He could see it was hard for me to talk about the attack. I can still hear his words echoing as if just spoken–”We’ll be there with America, shoulder to shoulder.”
For me these memories are vivid and painful. And of one thing I am absolutely certain, I will never forget.