A day that remains emblazoned in my mind

Published 4:51pm Saturday, September 7, 2013

Has it really been 12 years? It seems like just yesterday. Really, 12 years?
Wednesday will mark the 12th anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. It is a day I will forever remember where I was, what I was doing and the emotions I felt. It is a day, for all the wrong reasons, that is emblazoned in my mind.
In working for The Clanton Advertiser, covering world news was not on our normal to-do list. Heck, if it didn’t happen outside the limits of Chilton County, it was most likely not on our to-do list.
But, this was different.
I spent the morning covering a disaster drill at a local high school organized by the Chilton County Board of Education, the Chilton County EMA and the Alabama EMA, among others. It was there that I first learned of “something” going on.
As I first got to the drill and walked into the school’s office, a small black and white television was on in one of the offices. The first plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers and it was still early in the reporting. At that point, everyone still thought it was a tragic accident, not a fully-loaded passenger jet piloted by terrorists.
So, the drill went on as scheduled.
As the drill continued outside, I started to see state officials answer their cell phones. After a few seconds, their demeanor changed. They were being told of the attacks and the early reports of more attacks that were possible.
In a few moments, some of the state officials, who had been at the drill to observe, quickly jumped in their state SUVs and raced to the state’s emergency management center, which was located in Clanton.
Those of us left at the drill didn’t know the full extent of what was going on, so the drill continued.
It was only after the event had ended and I was back in my truck headed to the office, did I first hear attack reports on the radio. To this day, I can still remember the feeling in my chest as my heart rate quickened.
The rest of the day, admittedly, is a blur. I know there were stories that I hunted down, trying to find people from Chilton County who were possibly in New York at the time.
Later that afternoon, I was one of the reporters given access to the state EMA’s “war room,” where radar screens and monitors were tracking flights still in the air over Alabama. It was, to say the very least, surreal.
There are those who will say Sept. 11 is my generation’s Pearl Harbor. That makes sense, but Sept. 11 is Sept. 11. It stands alone.
That day, those events, led to places never before heard of, like Khandahar.
A generation of Americans are now almost 12-years-old and will never know of an America before the Patriot Act, flying watch lists, the Transportation Safety Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
As the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11 falls upon us this week, it is important to remember that day, relive the emotions we had on that day and honor those killed then and in the wars since, but I will not dwell on it.
It is an important day in our history and a day that has shaped our future. But our future remains ours to shape and, today, as a father, it is so important to me that my children grow up not dwelling on what might happen, what dangers are around the corner, but rather playing in the dirt, making forts out of sofa cushions and wanting to grow up to be cowboys.
Despite what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, those are some important things that have never — and hopefully will never — change.

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