On 9/11, I remember I was getting ready for the day while listening to the television in New Jersey, 15 minutes away from New York City. I heard the report first that a “small plane” may have hit the first tower. They were still thinking it might have been a horrible accident. Then I recall seeing the second plane hitting, the chill that I felt at that moment, feeling like everything stopped when I knew we were under attack. That suddenly, everything had changed. I was not watching the television when the first tower came down; I was in another room. I know it might sound strange, but I felt something horrible had just happened, as though I could hear screaming and something grabbing my heart. When I stepped back into the room to look at the television, the second tower was falling.
Then came the rest of the day – figuring out where everyone in the family was, if our friends made it back alive; how one who was near the WTC got trapped on the subway but that was fortunate because he hadn’t gotten out and gone to the WTC yet. How another friend died on one of the planes. How some walked home from New York City, because transportation and bridges were closed and shut down.
I was fortunate and safe because I was home. Many were not.
What I try to remember on this day is the heroes who stood up, the people who helped all over the world; the way people came together — the true sense of unity, of everyone trying to help one another through all that had happened.
I think of people like Welles Crowther, the man in the red bandanna, the 24-year-old equities trader who had wanted to be a firefighter. The man who could have gotten out, but went back, again and again, to save people, because that was who he was and that was what he had to do.
The most striking thing that he said to the people he was trying to help that day is a lesson still: those who can stand up, stand up now; if you can, help those around you. What would you do in the last hour of your life, and what would it look like? Welles Crowther stood up, and gave his live to save others. And there can be no higher calling. I like to think that for those like Welles, it must be something when God welcomes them home to Heaven, “Here you are, my good and faithful servant.”
May we always remember those who lost their lives and those, like Welles, who gave his life to do all he could in that moment. For there is no greater love. May we also take his lesson to stand up, if we can — because there is such need for that now.