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The date. September 11.
Every year, when I see the date looming on my calendar, I am taken back to that horrible day 14 years ago.
Like virtually every one of you, I will never forget exactly where I was and what I was doing – a conference room on the 20th floor of a building in Northwest Atlanta. Our view was of I-285 and, just beyond, Dobbins Air Force Base. And that mattered that day.
I will never forget my co-worker sitting next to me frantically trying to call his brother who was supposed to be in the tower that day. I will never forget his relief when he finally reached his brother, who was running late for work and never made it to the office.
I will never forget talking to co-workers in our Manhattan office and the stories of how they watched everything unfold through the windows of our offices (on 40th street, but with a clear view of Southern Manhattan). I will never forget them telling us of dust covered people walking by our offices despite being blocks away from the towers. I will never forget our staff telling of giving out water bottles, offering use of cell phones, and helping any way that they could – as New Yorkers everywhere were doing that day.
I will never forget the uncertainty of what was going to happen next and whether we were at any risk in our own building.
Without flights to get home, but being only a few hours drive and lucky enough to have a rental car, we started driving that evening. I will never forget the message signs on I-285 saying simply “National Emergency — All Atlanta airports closed.” I will never forget how empty I-285 was leaving Atlanta at what normally would have been rush hour (a notorious time of day at the I-285 / I-85 interchange).
I will never forget stopping on the drive home and talking with so many other travelers who were as equally stunned and as equally desperate to get home no matter what.
I will never forget the relief of finally arriving home and being greeted by family, including The Thundering Herd of the time – Nikita, Cocoa, and Ginger. I will never forget how safe the house felt.
I will never forget the 2,977 innocent human beings who were killed by 19 murderers.
I will never forget the fact that 373 of those victims were from 58 countries other than the United States.
I will never forget that 31 of the innocent victims were Muslim (not including the murderers).
I will never forget the 8 children killed that day, the youngest only 2 1/2 years old.
I will never forget the 343 firefighters and 63 law enforcement officers who lost their lives trying to save others.
I will never forget the 55 military members and 70 civilians killed at the Pentagon.
I will never forget Sirius, a Port Authority K-9 who was killed in the collapse of the towers (his human partner, Port Authority Officer David Lim, was inside the tower rescuing others when it collapsed, though he was rescued from the rubble a few hours later).
I will never forget the thousands who frantically searched for life among the rubble . . . and continued recovering the lost for weeks and months.
And I will never forget the thousands – millions – who simply did what they could – check on neighbors, offer rides, and generally just help each other in so many small ways.
It is just a date on a calendar.
A date I will never forget.
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