Tuesday, 9-11-01. Where were you?

To say that 9-11-01 changed the lives of nearly every American who experienced it — whether live or on TV — is a no-brainer. It was the Pearl Harbor, the JFK or MLK assassinations — for a new generation. Nearly every adult can remember where he/she was, and what they were doing when the planes hit in New York City and Washington. One of those planes — bound for the U.S. Capitol building, was retaken by passengers who crashed it in rural Pennsylvania

The attacks also rattled lots of kids. But at ages 7, 8 or 9 most recovered quickly. To some, after playing thousands of video games, it may seem like a nonevent. It left fewer emotional scars for them than it did for adults who were there and that’s good, up to a point.

But for the millions who were born on or around 1994, the upcoming national election is their first chance to vote. For them it’s as remote a date as Dec. 7, 1941. Or Nov. 22, 1963. A lot of them may have trouble understanding the heavy emphasis on national security, and the reason those TSA screeners slow things at the airport.

For a long time after 9/11, cops, EMTs, firefighters and military members of the federal family were heroes. That, it seems, was a lifetime ago.


When the two planes hit the Twin Towers in Manhattan, then- Mayor Rudy Giuliani was advised that the death toll could easily top 12,000. In fact, the number of deaths was under 3,000, thanks, in huge part to police, fire and EMT personnel who ran up 70 floors — with 100-pound packs — then down again carrying dazed or wounded people. And went back for more. Until they were killed in the collapse.

At the Pentagon, the death toll (70 civilians and 50 military) would have certainly been higher but for rescue efforts — by civilian and military people who escaped, then went back — which saved hundreds. The plane penetrated the outside E, D and C rings of the Pentagon. But it could have been even worse. Just before the event, a long-running project to strengthen the infrastructure had been completed. It was run by the late David O. Cooke, a long- time fed in charge of administration. If you worked at the Pentagon, you probably knew Doc, as the Mayor of the Pentagon.

Around the country, hundreds of FAA air traffic controllers behaved like trained pros. They calmly cleared the skies while monitoring what was going on. More than 250 passengers and crew died that day.

A month after 9/11, an FAA manager told me about a colleague’s challenging day. She had just dropped her kids off at day-care. When she reported to work, she was told an aircraft (or aircrafts) had hit New York, that there were dozens of “unknowns” headed to Washington, and that the President’s Air Force one had just taken off from Florida with two “unknowns” trailing it. Not just another day at the office.

Closer to home, a friend, an executive with an energy company, was booked on American Flight 77 out of Dulles. It’s the one that was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. She was told she needed to be in Los Angeles a day early, so she took the same flight. But on the day before the hijacking.

On the far side of the Pentagon, my oldest son was catching a bus to work when the plane crashed. A few miles away, his brother, and my youngest son, was attending a training session at Dulles.

Here at the office — which is located near Tenleytown, which is the highest point in D.C. — we were in a training session when somebody came in with the news. We worked and broadcast all day, with a clear view of the Pentagon burning and smoking.

We all have our 9/11 tales to tell.

With all the often-stupid political infighting that seems to be getting worse, it would be nice to declare a 24-hour truce. Let them — us — spend the day thinking about the heroes and ordinary people who lived and died just 11 short years ago today.


In lieu of a Nearly Useless Factoid, we direct you to some powerful images from the 9/11 memorial in New York City from last year’s remembrance.


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