Effects of 9-11 tragedy strike home harder than expected

Funny Thing About Life...

Funny Thing About Life…

“God Bless America.” “We will never forget.” These are the signs that litter cities and towns across our nation in remembrance of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Do we really remember? Are we really the patriots KFC and Bank of America say we are?

To be honest, the signs never affected me. I was devastated when I heard about the twin towers and have always been proud of my American citizenship, but seeing signs and memorials just didn’t hit me the way they do now.

I was changed on a trip to New York City last week.

The Chart was receiving a national award, which happened to be in New York City on the three-year anniversary of the attacks. We took some time to cover the memorial at ground zero.

We arrived to find fewer people than we had expected. It was puzzling at first. There were people lining the fences, some crying, some hanging flowers, others just standing in silence. Few were there to protest President Bush or say they were jailed for their pre-emptive knowledge of 9-11. I was there as a journalist.

The ceremonies began with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A large flag was draped over an adjacent building. The crowd stood still, silent. All eyes were on the flag. I had to put my hands in my pockets to keep them from shaking.

I tried to pull myself together – to hold back what emotions I had and tried to focus on my task at hand. I took pictures while listening to names being read. Some families read poems. Some were so choked up they could hardly pronounce a name. All were touched.

I watched as families descended down a ramp onto the remnants of the World Trade Center. Some wore personalized shirts; some held signs. Everyone cried.

Through the viewfinder on my camera, I saw one young girl holding a sign saying, “My daddy is not garbage.” I couldn’t take the picture – my hands were shaking. This was a lot harder than I thought.

We passed firemen, grown men much larger than I, all crying, bawling, some falling to their knees.

“I miss my husband,” a woman said full of tears.

I can’t image that kind of pain. I hope I never have to.

After making a lap around, it was time to get interviews. We could hardly stay around much longer. I really wanted to cry.

I approached a woman who had just put flowers on the fence. She wasn’t crying, which was my indication she may be willing to talk. She respectfully declined.

I’ve never felt worse to be a journalist.

I found a group of men talking. Some of them were volunteer firemen, others were Air Force reserves. I talked to some of them. Two left when I identified myself. The other two were former employees of companies inside the twin towers. One broke down and cried in the middle of the interview.

I thanked him. I was done. I felt horrible.

We left the site as changed people. I couldn’t help but try and empathize. What would my life be like if I’d lost someone in those attacks.

I would never be able to forget – never.

Walking back to the subway, I glanced over my shoulder one last time.

“I will never forget,” I told myself. “God Bless America.”