Where were you when the world stopped turning?
Emerald G. Parsons
ECB Publishing, Inc.
We all remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001.
It was a Tuesday morning … press morning for me. My sister-in-law called me and told me an airplane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. My initial thoughts were that it was an accident, and it was sad and tragic. Only much later would I learn what had truly happened to America on that fateful September day.
For the next several days, weeks and months, we all stared at our televisions at the black smoke that rose against the sky.
We watched as people jumped from 80,90,100 stories high.
We watched as people were pulled from the rubble, clinging to dear life.
We cried for the children that lost their moms and dads and cried for the heroes who died trying to save the lives of complete strangers.
We were ecstatic for the people who escaped and walked away from death, and sobbed for the ones left below.
We opened our eyes every morning wishing we didn't have to see it on the television and in newspapers again but, at the same time, we couldn't take our eyes off of it.
The 9/11 attacks killed 2,977 people. 2,753 people were killed in New York, 184 people were killed at the Pentagon, 40 people were killed on Flight 93 and more than 6,000 others were injured.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the pride of the United States could be felt worldwide. We all loved each other…across divisional, political and racial lines. We stood together and we stood firm. America stood invincible.
It took eight months and 19 days to clean up ground zero after the September 11th attacks. Through much planning and thousands of volunteers, the 9/11 Museum opened on Sept. 6, 2006.
For the next 12 years, one of my biggest desires was to go to New York City and visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This past April, that dream came true. Janice, that same sister-in-law that called me that fateful day, and I traveled to New York City for five days, and I had the honor and privilege to walk through the museum and stand in the very same places that so many people before me had died. This was one of the most intense and solemn experiences I have ever had.
The 9/11 Memorial occupies eight of the 16 acres at the World Trade Center. Two huge pools have been placed at the exact point where the North and South Towers stood. The pools are 192 feet by 192 feet and are 30 foot deep. Water cascades down the four walls and disappears into a square hole in the center of the pool. The names of every person who died in the terrorist attacks of Feb. 26, 1993, and Sept. 11, 2001, are inscribed on 152 black granite parapets on the memorial pools
A Callery Pear Tree, named the Survivor Tree, stands there by one of the pools, in the 9/11 Memorial Plaza.
In October 2001, one month after the collapse of the Twin Towers, workers on the site discovered a few green leaves showing through the gray concrete and ash. Clearing the debris, they found an eight-foot severely injured tree with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. Although still bearing scars, it remains strong and tall there in the Memorial Plaza. The Survivor Tree is the only surviving tree from Ground Zero and stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth.
The 9/11 Museum is approximately 70-feet below the ground and is located directly under where the Twin Towers once stood. The largest of the spaces within the museum is the Foundation Hall, a room with ceilings ranging from 40 to 60 feet and nearly 15,000 square feet of floor space. There, you can find the slurry wall―a retaining wall initially built to hold back the Hudson River―and the remnants of cutoff box columns that once formed the exterior structure of the Twin Towers.
The museum tells the story of 9/11 through interactive technology, archives, narratives and a collection of artifacts. This museum bears solemn witness to both terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Feb. 26, 1993. The museum honors the nearly 3,000 victims of these attacks and all those who risked their lives to save others. It further recognizes the thousands who survived and all who demonstrated extraordinary compassion in the aftermath.
As you descend down the steps to the museum, 70 foot beneath the ground, you can see a 36-foot-tall piece of steel standing, anchored into bedrock. This steel piece was once a part of Column 1001B—one of 47 columns that supported the South Tower's inner core. Uncovered by workers during the nine-month recovery period, this resilient steel remnant, the last column to be removed from the World Trade Center site, assumed symbolic status for those working at Ground Zero. First responders last reported to have been near the lobby before the tower's collapse were believed to be buried close by. Due to its proximity to this last known location of first responders, the column became a marker of loss. In time, recovery workers, as well as relatives and friends of victims, placed mementos and inscriptions on the column, filling its surfaces to honor those lost.
The column was cut down and removed from the site in two ceremonies that marked the completion of the recovery period at Ground Zero. On the evening of May 28, 2002, trade union members cut the Last Column from its footing in a private ceremony held by and for recovery and relief workers. Workers then laid the column, shrouded in black and draped with an American flag, onto a flatbed truck. Bagpipers played "Amazing Grace."
On May 30, 2002, the Last Column was removed from the World Trade Center site on the flatbed truck in a public, televised ceremony. Thousands of people attended, including family and friends of victims, members of the armed forces, dignitaries, and rescue, recovery, and relief workers.
An honor guard escorted the column from the site. Police and Fire Department buglers played "Taps," while bagpipers and drummers performed "America, the Beautiful."
The Last Column returned to the World Trade Center site and was installed in the Museum in August 2009. Now standing in the Foundation Hall, the column still bears the markings and memorial tributes.
Janice and I spent four hours walking through the museum and only left because we were hungry.
I could have spent all day underground looking through and listening to all the history of that very memorable day.
A mangled fire truck from the New York City Fire Department's Ladder Company 3, which helped civilians escape from the trade center's north tower, now rests in The 9/11 Museum. The firetruck had sped to the twin towers from its firehouse in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood with 11 firefighters aboard — all of whom died when the towers collapsed.
The "Survivors' Stairs" can also be seen in the museum. This staircase once connected the northern edge of the World Trade Center Plaza to the Vesey Street Sidewalk below. On Sept. 11, 2001, the stairs and an adjacent escalator provided an unobstructed exit for hundreds of people seeking to escape the fire and terror. Today, visitors to the Museum have a different set of steps to climb down, right beside these original Twin Tower "Survivors' Steps."
Thousands of artifacts line the walls and corridors of the 9/11 Museum. Thousands of memorabilia from the victims, survivors and rescue personnel. So many small "minute' things…that now are more important than one would have ever believed it would be.
The Wall of Remembrance inside The 9/11 Museum is a heart-stopper. There on wall after wall after wall after wall … are all the pictures of all those that lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attack. As I walked and looked at pictures, I couldn't help but feel the heartbreak and pain of the loved ones left behind. What a tragic feeling of loss. Thousands of people killed for no good reason at all.
In another part of the museum, visitors can hear the actual phone calls placed by people trapped in the Twin Towers to loved ones, from passengers on Flight 93 to their loved ones, from flight attendants to air-traffic-control, and the actual recordings with the terrorists' voices speaking to air-control.
As I sat in the dark room watching the flight patterns of the four airplanes used in the Sept. 11 attack on America, and listening to the actual footage of mothers, husbands and daughters calling and saying goodbye to those they loved…the tears streamed down my face. Of course, the only phone calls we could hear are those left on voicemails. For, if the telephone call had been answered, there was no recording. But I sat and listened to the heart-wrenching love messages of those in the air, or trapped in the World Trade Center, calling their loved ones…to just say "I love you," for the very last time.
Where were you when the world stopped turning…on that fateful September day?
If you weren't in the World Trade Center, one of the four terrorists used airplanes, or one of the rescue personnel in New York City…then you are blessed beyond measure.
So, on this 18th anniversary of 9/11…
Never forget one of the darkest days in our nation's history.
Never forget how we all came together.
And always remember those we lost and those who gave their lives for complete strangers.
Never forget 9/11.