I was upstairs, brushing my teeth, when I heard the TV in the room next to ours go to an alert and then a frantic reporter speaking loudly.
I went into the TV room, toothbrush still in my mouth, and watched in horror at the plane that had flown into the first tower of the twin towers.
I watched in utter disbelief until I heard my wife, Bern, slide her truck at high speed into the driveway.
She was yelling when she jumped out and yelling when she hit the front door and yelling up the steps as she came to me.
“Did you hear from Josh and Mimi? DID YOU? DID YOU?”
It wasn’t until that moment that I remembered that both our children were in New York City!
We didn’t hear from them for what seemed like a decade but was probably about 90 minutes.
Mimi came up from the subway at the American Ballet theatre, where she worked, just as the second plane hit. The abject terror on the streets shocked her deeply and she had an hour and a half walk back to her apartment in Brooklyn.
Josh was in Brooklyn already, where he was going to law school. His classmate and girlfriend (and now our daughter in law) Cathy Chen had been on the last subway to pass the Twin Towers station and she was walking home as well.
Bern and I felt better knowing they were safe, but not much, as we continued to watch both the buildings collapse and I finally remembered to take my toothbrush out of my mouth.
I’m sure all of you—and everyone over 25—remembers where they were that tragic morning two decades ago.
A friend of mine, who was also in New York, lost 6 of the 9 people she had invited to dinner two days later.
So many people lost people they cared deeply about and we all lost our sense of safety.
Some might want to cuss about the terrorists who did such damage to our national psyche and got us and allies into an unwinnable 20 year war that cost many more American lives.
But I want to mourn the dead and to point to the heroes and heroines of 9/11.
Give thanks for those brave first responders who got as many out of the towers as they could. Fire and police member who put their own lives in jeopardy to seek to save others.
Give thanks for the brave passengers on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania that gave up their lives so that many may be saved from death.
Give thanks for the clergy and psychologists who sought to help surviving family and friends to deal with their pain and guilt.
Give thanks for the doctors and nurses who cared for the injured and brought them back to health.
Give thanks to those who cleaned up the aftermath of 9/11, many of whom were undocumented immigrants and Native Americans. Many died later from the dust they had inhaled and all of them have continuing health issues from the labor clearing away the debris.
Give thanks for those who fed and housed those workers during their long weeks of work.
Give thanks to all who had funerals for the dead, even without proper remains.
In one of America’s worst tragedies, America’s best qualities were shown in our those who worked so very hard to make things better.
And also, on this 20th anniversary, let us take a moment of silence to mourn for the many who lost their lives.
“Give rest, O Christ, to all who died on that terrible day, with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life eternal. Amen”