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20 years later and it still hurts
Patty Leon new

I can still remember setting up the classroom. I was a CPR instructor at the American Red Cross in Miami. We had about 30 students registered that morning to learn all about first aid and CPR.

Everyone was filing into the classroom and I had turned on the TV and was getting the video ready for the first portion of the class. While waiting for everyone to get settled I left the TV on the Today Show. Back then the two main hosts were Matt Lauer and Katie Couric. They looked troubled and were talking about an incident that had just occurred at the World Trade Center and Twin Towers. The cameras went live at the scene and smoked enveloped one of the buildings.

It was right then during that live shot that a second airplane came into view and plowed into the second tower.

It was Sept. 11, 2001.

We watched, bewildered.   The camera cut back to the Today show and both hosts could not hide the look of astonishment.

“You have to move from some type of accident, to something deliberate happening here,” Matt Lauer said. 

The phone rang in the classroom. Class was cancelled. Everyone was to head home immediately and the Disaster Response Team was to report to the main office to be briefed for an assignment at Miami International Airport. The rest of us were told to go home until we get called back to work.

We all know what unfolded that day. It is forever etched in our memory. Two planes attacked the Twin Towers, another plane crashed into the Pentagon and heroes prevented yet another attack by nabbing the hijackers on United Flight 93.

Of course, that’s started what would soon become the longest war for Americans, one which just ended Aug. 31, 2021, twenty years after it started.

But I’m not here to talk about whether we should have ended the war sooner. Nor am I here to debate whether the way it was ended was right or wrong.

I’d much rather spend the time honoring those who were the victims of such a tragic and historic attack, one that took place on American soil. 

The attacks killed roughly 3,000 people, several hundred of which were firefighters and first responders. In the following years those same attacks would claim more lives as many first responders and others developed long-term health issues from working in the ash, dust and ruins of the buildings. It was reported that by 2018, 10,000 people were diagnosed with 9/11-related cancer.

These brave souls walked into the fire to try and save countless others and they are the first that come to mind as we approach the anniversary.

Those brave individuals on United flight 93 also come to mind. They stormed the cock-pit and attacked the hijackers. The plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Penn. Speculation is that the hijackers were likely going to try and crash into Camp David, a nuclear plant in Maryland or worse yet, the White House. These folks are true patriots who placed country before self.

In the years that followed we lost many more Americans as our longest war unfolded, all caused by 19 terrorists fighting for Al-Qaeda on that fateful Tuesday morning 20 years ago. A war which saw five presidents enter the oval office.

The landscape of New York was forever changed that day. But the spirit of the people of New York and the U.S.A. never wavered. 

Right now, there is a lot is division among Americans, mostly because everything we do these days is based on a political stance and not human empathy.

I’m thankful to all the men and women who rushed to help others in a time of need. I’m thankful to all our military service members for the fights and sacrifices that led to the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden and others. I’m thankful and honor their years of service that was primarily dedicated to right this tragic wrong.

It’s these moments, when we reflect on the vast devastation that happened that day, that reminds me, how, in the big scheme of things we bleed the same color blood, cry the same tears, feel deeply during our individual losses, collectively celebrate when our favorite team is winning and take pride in our people and our country.

Sept. 11, 2001 was a horrific day and it tore apart many families. But it also brought together a nation during extremely difficult times. As we reflect on the 20th anniversary my hope is we can start to be a nation that comes together once again and honor those we lost that day.

-Patty Leon


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