I was at home when one of my children called out that there had been an attack. I thought it was in Israel. It was a time when things were exploding here and my children would often call me when the television changed its regular broadcast.
Something was different this time – it was a report from New York. A plane had crashed into the northern tower of the World Trade Center. My mind accepted easily that it was a terrorist attack, but the broadcaster kept saying it wasn’t confirmed. “You stupid man,” I thought, “of course it is a terrorist attack.”
I watched the confusion as the reporters explained what happened and then, live, we watched in horror as a second plane hit the South Tower. In that moment, it was clear to everyone that this was indeed a terror attack, though still, people did not yet comprehend the extent of what was to happen.
In those first moments, seconds after the news anchors could no longer deny that this was a terrorist attack in the making, my first thought…one that I regret to this day…was “Good. Now American will understand.”
Moments later, or so it seemed, a third plane hit the Pentagon and chaos erupted as they began tracking other planes. In those minutes, as I watched the towers burning, I began to think that this was so much worse than anyone expected. Suddenly, the Southern Tower fell and I thought, “God, I didn’t mean this. I didn’t want this to happen.”
They talked of numbers too high to imagine. 50,000 people on a regular day. How many were inside was anyone’s guess. There was no way to know. The northern tower fell. The streets were filled with smoke and dust and debris. The faces showed the shock we all felt. The image of people walking across the bridge to get to Brooklyn. A fourth plane was missing and supposedly headed towards Washington. It was a nightmare that wasn’t ending. Planes were grounded and still it wouldn’t stop.
For hours and hours, they reported what had happened. So few survived. So many lost. Desperate searches for family members. In our family, a sister-in-law walked away from the area but it took hours to reach her and know she was safe. A decade and still people remember where they were in those moments of confusion and of agonizing clarity.
America learned the lesson of what terror brings to its shores. I never wanted America to learn to the extent of 9/11. I never wanted to see so many die, to watch the shock cover a nation, a world. I never imagined the Towers would fall; that close to 3,000 people would die. I went to college in New York City. I always thought the Towers were so ugly, there as they stood towering above Lower Manhattan. Even that feeling, I’ve come to regret.
I sat there for hours, tears streaming down my face, trying to understand, trying to explain to my children. Night fell in Israel, and still I watched. I fed my children dinner, kissed them good night, and returned to the television. How many, I kept wondering…how many? I remember the ambulances lined up – waiting for the injured, for the survivors…but so few survived.
The America that was born out of 9/11 is so different than the one before. Not just in the sense of heightened security but in the sense of vulnerability. The words of George Bush on that day touched my heart and so I post them here –
Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and neighbours. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.
The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; our country is strong.
A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.
America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.
Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best of America — with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.
The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I’ve directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them.
I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance.
America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism. Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.
This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Palestinians were dancing in the streets of Gaza, the West Bank, and yes, even in Brooklyn, NY. We have seen this countless times after a “successful” attack against Israelis, but this was the first time I saw this in relation to an attack elsewhere.
Ten years later and yes, we have gone on to defend freedom and still stand against terrorism. Israelis and Americans know that there are no borders when it comes to terrorism, and no limits to the atrocities that others will commit in the name of false gods and causes.
Later this month, the Palestinians plan to seek statehood at the United Nations. A nation built on evil, built on terror, cannot survive. When the foundations are weak and immoral, the building cannot stand. So long as the Palestinians continue to embrace terror, they will not succeed.
Forever burned into my memory is the horror of those moments when the towers fell. May God bless the memories of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 – those in the towers, those in the Pentagon, those in the planes and those who went in to rescue them.
May the world never know another 9/11…not in the United States, and not in Israel. On 9/11, America’s freedom came under attack – and it has been under attack every day since.
Do you remember where you were, what you were doing, when you heard about the attacks?