I vividly remember the company lobby where a financial advisor friend and I patiently waited for a 9:00 a.m. business meeting to start on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. We watched in horrified silence as the lobby television broadcasted images of the first tower smoking. Minutes ticked by while company employees filled the lobby watching as the second tower was hit. The owner of the company, unaware of what was happening in real time, came into the lobby fussing at his employees for not working. Then he saw the images of carnage and destruction from New York. We cancelled our meeting.
Fast forward four years.
Alone this time, I vividly remember the office lobby of my son’s pediatrician where I frantically waited and prayed on another September 11th. Waiting to hear some words of hope from the crash team that was trying to revive my first son, Max. You don’t understand the fragility of life until you witness your child’s doctor calling for an ambulance. I remember riding in the ambulance from the doctor’s office to the emergency room, agitated at slow Sunday drivers and hearing the stressed chatter of the crash team as they lost Max’s heartbeat then found it again. God bless first responders. Sincerely. They did their best but Max did not make it. He was just a week shy of his 3rd birthday. My second son, Montgomery was just 3 weeks old.
Since then, Montgomery and I have visited the September 11th memorials in New York City and at the Pentagon. Both are very moving but the Pentagon memorial made a deeper impression upon my son. The memorial consists of a wall of remembrance and 184 curved benches dedicated to each of the victims who died in the Pentagon attack. The benches are arranged in a timeline according to the victims ages from the youngest who was 3 years old to the oldest who was 71. We visited the memorial when he was in middle school and I remember how intently he considered the bench for the 3-year-old after he understood what it meant.
Montgomery has no direct memories of Max just as most Americans under the age of 20 do not remember the 9/11 attacks. All they have are memorials, remembrances, photographs, and stories. More importantly, they have us. We are the eyewitnesses who are responsible for conveying the truth about who and what we lost, about the America that existed 20 years ago, and about what we hope America can be again.