by Earl Staggs
Dallas, Texas. A hotel conference room. An orientation meeting with an insurance company I had just joined.
There were about forty of us in the room. We were watching a video presentation when one of the insurance company executives entered the room, flicked on the lights, and stopped the video.
“A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center,” he announced.
Stunned silence. No one in the room spoke or moved for several seconds. A guy at the table in front of me turned around and smirked. Then I got it. Some idiot in a two-seater Piper Cub lost control, fell asleep or something, and ran his little propeller through a window of the skyscraper. I smirked back.
“It’s on TV in the next room,” the guy at the front said.
We all followed him next door to a similar room, except this one had a TV hanging on the wall. We needed a break. The video we’d been watching was a real schnoozer.
I wasn’t expecting the scene I saw on the TV screen. My first thought was someone made a mistake. We were looking at a scene from a disaster movie, a science fiction thriller, or an alien invasion epic.
It took a while for the reality to sink in. This was real. This really happened. In America. In New York City.
We spent the rest of the morning watching the news. Some scenes were forever etched in my memory. A crowd of people in the street, being chased by an enormous dust cloud when the first tower fell. The second plane hitting the second tower. Police officers and firefighters covered with chalky dust trying to establish order in an incredible, unbelievable chaos.
For the rest of that day and several days afterward, I was glued to the news as the rest of the tragedy played out. The pentagon damage. The plane going down in Pennsylvania. I’ll never forget the wall where people posted pictures of missing loved ones.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “A day which will live in infamy.” He was talking about December 7, l941, of course, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. That phrase also applies to November 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It applies to September 11, 2001.
Those dates will stay forever in the minds of every American, not only as tragedies, but as reminders. We have built an incredible nation, one that leads the world in so many ways. We can never forget, though, that we still live in a world of other nations with different philosophies and ideologies. We have to keep in mind always that no matter what we build and accomplish on our own soil, we cannot become so complacent as to think we are safe from atrocity.
It has happened before. It can happen again.
Where were you ten years ago today?