I remember being at work in Northern Virginia, in the financial aid office of a school full of people who had bright hopes for their future. I remember vividly walking into my office to hear someone say a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I remember brushing it off, thinking it was a small plane. Not many hurt; some bad luck pilot. I remember learning the truth and sinking into my seat to watch the TV set up for the purpose in our large office. I remember staring stupidly at the screen, the tears that suddenly rolled down my cheeks when I watched the first building fall. There was not much functioning for the rest of the day.
I remember calling my ex-boyfriend/still friend at the time -- a government contractor for the Pentagon moved to Crystal City some time before the attack. Crystal City is a short drive from the Pentagon. You can see the big government enclosure from the tiny office/shopping center. He was fine; but, had he been in his regular office, he would have been instantly vaporized.
I remember walking the streets in New York City, near Ground Zero, and the grayness in the sky that remained almost a month later. The color of the sky and everything around me matched the somber faces of the people who walked around me and my friend as we bypassed streets blocked or cordoned off for safety reasons.
I remember going home that night – not my real home in Manassas, but in my mind my home across the street from the Pentagon, and thinking about how that small area would be changed forever. I remember just a few years before, practicing for my drivers' license in the parking lot in front of the Pentagon so early in the morning.
I remember, in the months following, the Jersey barriers up in front of the White House and all of Pennsylvania Avenue and the feeling of sadness it caused.
There are those who say we should put that day behind us and move on. Although I was nowhere near Ground Zero on that day, I will not forget that crazy, sad, desperate day, nor the days and months, that followed. I cannot imagine that anyone directly affected could ever forget.
I think we have to remember that day; remember how it changed everything in our daily lives. How it changed the way we entered public buildings. How it changed the way we travel from place to place. How it changed something as simple as renting an apartment or opening a bank account. How it changed the way we looked at people who appeared different from us.
How we treated those elected to run our government.
It seems that the only thing it did not change was the human penchant for forgetting certain things. For forgetting that intolerance breeds intolerance; violence breeds violence. Attack always breeds retaliation. How, if one dips their toe into piranha-infested waters, one may get their toe bitten off.
Please, let us never forget those three thousand killed, and the many thousands affected. Maybe if we remember those people – real, human people – we will not forget that in the end we are all the same, no matter what we look like or whom we pray to.