I never saw the Twin Towers.
But I still remember where I was 17 years ago when I heard the news. I’d just stepped out of my mom’s car as she dropped me off in front of my middle school, when my childhood best friend came running up to me and started asking me about what happened. My parents never watched the news in the morning so I had no clue what she was talking about.
Since I lived in Mountain Time, all four planes had already gone down by the time the school day began, and it was all over the news. We spent all day at school with televisions on, watching as the towers fell and the horrors unfolded.
As memorable and scary and horrifying as it was, in more recent years, I’ve realized my experience on this day is probably vastly different from that of people who lived on the east coast. Montana is a relatively safe place, an unpopulated place… not exactly high on the list of targets for this kind of attack. So though my classmates and I were all shocked and saddened – and though we had a brief moment of panic when Air Force jets flew over our school after all flights had been grounded – I doubt we faced the same degree of fear that day.
After all, I’d never even been to New York City or Washington DC. I never saw the Twin Towers, and I don’t even think it dawned on me until years later that I never would.
But even though I’d never seen them, and even though I was – in many ways – pretty far removed from the events of that terrible day, I always knew I wanted to visit Ground Zero. I think it’s a place everyone should visit.
I finally had the opportunity to four months ago during a day in Manhattan. We didn’t go into the museum, but we did walk the perimeter of the reflecting pools, engraved with the names of everyone who lost their life that day. Did you know they place roses in each person’s name every year on his/her birthday? We saw the statues and monuments and gazed up at the new One World Trade Center building.
It was somber. Sobering. A reminder of all the ways the world was forever changed by that day.
A reminder of a day we will never, ever forget.