Today memorializes the eighth year since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It is hard to believe that so much time has gone by since that day of loss, fear, and anger. Everyone should take time today to remember those that died that day and the families and friends that they left behind.
This morning a memorial service will be held at the site of the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. This hallowed ground has been selected to be preserved as memorial managed by the National Park Service. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 9:45 am eastern time. A permanent memorial and facilities are planned to be completed at this site by September 11, 2011.
September 11, 2001 is one of those dates where most people can remember vividly where they were and what they were doing when they heard of the attacks. Even so the shock was still distant and a bit unreal for the majority of us. The scenes viewed on television were etched into our minds. It took time to sink in and manifest itself in our memories.
For me it became more real and personal when I was detailed to Washington, D.C. on September 12, 2001 to work on a national incident command team charged with ensuring security and safety for national parks nationwide and more specifically employees and facilities in the D.C. area. Eight years later we forget that in the immediate aftermath of the aircraft strikes no one knew if the attacks were over or where it could happen next. Although we still live with this threat, most have become desensitized to it.
Having been to D.C. many times before my first impression on driving into town was the lack of traffic or people on the streets. It appeared that our capital had been abandoned. Most government workers had been either told to or decided on their own to stay home. Every street corner in the federal district had a D.C. Metro Police Officer standing guard.
After putting in a long day at the Interior Building of assessing possible terrorist targets, threats, and reviewing security plans we were sent to our hotel which was across the Potomac in Virginia. It was dark, I was tired and wired and dragged myself into a long line of other federal emergency responders checking into the hotel. When I exited the elevator on the eleventh floor an hour later, I was met with a site I will never forget. Before me through the wall of glass window and illuminated by floodlights was the gaping whole left in the Pentagon from the attack the day before. The area was lit up like day and the rubble crawling with rescue workers. Over the next few weeks I met many of those investigators and workers who were sharing the same hotel. They were quiet, staring, and exhausted hulks of human beings. You could see the stress and pain in their eyes each morning I met them in the lobby and breakfast room. They were experiencing first hand the affects of 9/11 and eventually had to face the fact that there were no more chances to save lives in the debris.
I remember these dedicated people and the affects these events must have had on them and their families upon their eventual return home. Today I will take time to remember all the rescue, fire, law enforcement, and emergency personnel who responded on and after the terrorist attacks. I hope you will join me.