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September 11, 2001 We Changed Yet Remained The Same

Updated on September 13, 2017
Sallie Mullinger profile image

Sallie is a retired mother and grandmother who has written short stories for most of her life. Her stories are from her heart to yours.

September 11, 2001 was just like any other beautiful fall day until life, as we knew it, suddenly changed

It comes around every year at the same time. Like Christmas. But unlike Christmas, its a sad day. A day marked by tears and remembrance. A day which reminds us all that life is only guaranteed for that very second we are in.

While we're putting summer to bed and buying pumpkins and mums, we suddenly get caught up in the memory of September 11, 2001.

If you were born that day, you would be celebrating your 13th birthday. If you were 50 that day, you would now be 63 and my age, and getting old! If you lost a loved one on that horrible day, the memory of their death and how they died will consume you on this day. Every. Single Year.

If youre just an average American, hopefully you will stop and pay tribute with a silent prayer and you will remember.

As it should be.

If you lived thru the JFK assassination then you, like millions of other Americans, remember where you were and exactly what you were doing when the news came that he had been killed. And before that, if you lived thru Pearl Harbor, you will always remember that famous day as well.

Thus it is true that all Americans will remember September 11th 2001..what they were doing and where they were when those 2977 innocent people lost their lives to terrorism.

Every year, I cry around this time. I hear a song or watch a video and the tears come. Im not much different from many of you whom, I am sure, do the very same thing. I wonder why I cry, at this point, tho? I knew no one who perished that day. I dont really even know someone who knew someone. Yet I cry and cry easily and I dont know why.

Is it because of the huge loss of innocent lives? Surely that must be it. Yet when I think of other tragedies which incurred large loss of human lives, I dont cry. And Im not a cold person. I cry over sappy Hallmark card for gods sake. I would like to think that I cry because of the sheer futility and meaningless act which killed all of those people. For what did those idiots really accomplish? Has anything changed for their people? Did flying those jets into the Twin Towers suddenly right all the wrongs they mistakenly perceived America to be responsible for?

Did offering up their own lives, to their Allah, earn them a greater reward than any of us could possibly understand?

And finally...did killing all of those people..every man, woman and child somehow make it all worthwhile?

I think I cry because Im an American. And because from the time I was a small child, this love of my country and all that she stands for and represents was instilled in me. Just as it was in each of us. I cry because that horrible tragedy, united us as one as nothing else has since then. And I cry because I know that all of us shared in the absolute disbelief of what we were seeing on our television screens. And I cry for the humanity of that day. Everywhere you looked, no matter the gender, race, or religion, people were bound together by something greater than the pettiness which normally tears us apart. We were Americans, struggling to make sense of something which made no sense. We were Americans frightened and unsure, yet solid and strong and determined to unite in the face of pure evil.

I also cry for what we lost that day. Certainly in human life and suffering. But the total of lost lives cannot begin to account for what we lost as a nation, as a people. We no longer took our freedom for granted. I know I certainly didnt. Once, I went to bed, feeling safe and secure and never worrying that my country might be a target for terrorists who must kill in order to somehow atone for what they believed were the sins of our country. After 9/11, that all changed. Without realizing it, I found myself wondering if it might happen again and if it did, when it would happen. Would I be in a grocery store or driving down the road. Or would I be at a concert or a sporting event.

I thought about my children and my grandchildren and what life might be like in this world after Im gone and I wondered how many times they might have to face what I had only faced once in my lifetime.

I thought about how the freedoms we so casually took for granted now had been thrown in our faces, stepped on, spit on, and laughed at. I thought about how the intent was to humiliate us, bring us to our knees and I felt anger.

Life changed that day. And it changed dramatically.

We went on with our lives because thats what Americans do. We pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. We square our shoulders and we resolve that the enemy might kill our bodies, but they will never kill our spirit or our souls. We sat thru those gut-wrenching days of dust and rubble and bodies buried beneath steel and concrete staring, in disbelief, as scenes we had only seen in movies, became reality.

We remember the faces of New Yorkers who stood and watched in horror as those two, powerful buildings crumbled into a heap of rubble...wondering all the while if the end of the world was coming. We closed our eyes and ears at one after another of incredulous sights and sounds and yet knowing that they would always be forever in our memories.

We were changed. No matter how much we got on with our lives and no matter how much resuming our daily routines happened...we were changed and I believe profoundly changed. We tried to make sense of what had happened and we couldnt. How could we? What happened was so stark-ravingly insane that it challenged our minds.

How could anyone who saw that brilliant blue, late summer sky in New York wrap their head around images of people catapulting to their deaths from 1300 feet in the air? How could any of us understand the gripping fear we felt wondering if there would be another attack and where it might be?

For sure, my generation understood violence. We were steeped in it. We lived thru the 60s where, at every corner, someone was being assassinated or beaten to a bloody pulp in a civil rights march or an anti-war march. We saw the mutilation that was Viet Nam every night on television. We knew. But this was different. And we knew it. And I dont think we were prepared for it, if anyone COULD ever be prepared for what happened that day.


Until you live thru a tragedy such as the ones I just described, you have no idea how it kicks you in the gut and takes you down and makes you vulnerable.

But the 60s and all of its turbulence didnt prepare me for how I felt on and after 9/11. As bad as the decade of JFK's death was, it didnt affect or impact me the way that 9/11 did. And even tho I knew none of those people personally, I didn't need to know them. I was connected to them as every American was connected to them. It's called nationalism and it's what stands tall in the face of the evil that is Muslim terrorism. Their faces were forever burned into my memory.

I feel naïve sometimes when I ask the question “why” for its not within us to understand the mindset of people who can easily and without any seeming concern or care or humanity, kill the way those terrorists killed as they mowed down the World Trade Center

Yes, that day changed America and Americans forever. Families were torn apart. Marriages crumbled. Sanity was lost. And year after year, we honor the day and its aftermath and the lives that were lost in some sort of attempt to keep the memory alive and to still try and understand what cannot be understood.

I hope that it works. I hope that we always DO remember and that we dont become apathetic. I hope that 50 or 60 years from now there will still be 9/11 memorial tributes. And that children will read about it in their history books or hear about it from their parents or grandparents.

I will be gone by then. I hope that my 5 young grandchildren will know and understand how America stood tall and strong and resolved to not be vanquished or defeated by the enemy. I hope that they will always be proud of their country and all that she stands for and how she fought against tyranny from the beginning of our nation up to and including 9/11 and that nothing every keeps her or her people down.

The essence of being American is found in our ability to get on with things. Life takes us down and sometimes takes us down really hard. Yet, we always fight back and come back stronger.

I am smart enough to know that the day those jets crashed into the World Trade Center that the United States of America had been warned and that we were supposed to capitulate, fall to our knees and beg forgiveness for some unknown, imaginary sins we were perceived to have committed. But that didnt happen and the biggest mistake terrorists ever make is in making the assumption that America responds to threats and fear.

I worry about our futures. I worry about our country. I worry about the Mideast and all of the turmoil and bloodshed and hatred which is a way of life over there. But I will not live my life in fear. For to me, to do so, changes me and takes away my power to be free and hands it to them, the enemy.

If we spend our days wondering about what might happen and living in fear because another 9/11 might happen, then we may as well give up, tell them theyve already won and hand over the keys to the castle. For when we live in fear, we arent really living at all. Living life as tho you are chicken little and you are waiting for the sky to fall is exactly what they want us to do. And then they have won without using one bullet, one knife or one more jet plane.

The people who died that day, were heroes. They didnt ask to be heroes. They certainly didnt get up that morning and know that in a few short hours that they would become heroes. But every, single one of them who died, left us a legacy.

I hope that we all know and understand why that's important. Their lives must be remembered and honored for this one thing: Those terrorists didnt send us a wake up call. They dont deserve that credit. This isnt about them. Its about all of those people who perished. THEY gave us a wake up call. An awareness, if you will, that we should never take what we have in this country, for granted. A belief that we ARE America, the place people still fight to come to and to live in and to work in and to raise their families in. We must honor the deaths of those 2997 people in our ability to remain true to our heritage and to the fighting spirit that was born when the first shots rang out in Concord and Lexington.

We must never forget.

Homeward Angels

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    • Sallie Mullinger profile image
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      Sallie Mullinger 3 years ago from Ohio

      As always..thank you , Joan!

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      Joan 3 years ago

      Beautifully written as always, Sallie. And you are definitely correct, we did change but yet remained the same as a nation. We faced that tragedy with courage, compassion, caring and love for each other. We are defined as a country by our wonderful people who unite as one during a crisis. Well done!!!!

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      Norma 3 years ago

      Beautifully written and heartfelt.