Tag: 9/11


We are Stewards of the New America

9/11 essay

One of the more poignant stories I’ve heard this week, as the media performs its annual retrospective of terror, is an NPR StoryCorps interview with Vaughn Allex, the poor fellow working the American Airlines front desk who checked in everyone on Flight 77. He remembered all of the other people he’d checked in—an older couple, a student tour group—and two men running late, who turned out to be the terrorists responsible for crashing the plane into the Pentagon. His guilt was like a millstone about his neck.

Then there was another profile, this time in Esquire, this time about the iconic photograph Richard Drew captured of a man hurtling through space after jumping from the molten crown of the Twin Towers. Its subject, dubbed “the Falling Man,” inspired a search among that Tuesday morning’s victims to uncover an identity—a name, a story, anything that would fill in the heart-stopping vacuum of space in which he dives death-ward.

Ten Years Later

Flags at Rockefeller Center in December 2001.

Sometimes, life asks us to hand parts of ourselves back. September 11 was one of those times.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following post originally appeared as a Facebook note published on September 11, 2011, ten years after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Whenever I write about September 11th, I feel somewhat guilty for the grief I feel. I didn’t directly know anyone who was lost on that day, but I know plenty of folks who fit into that category. I am two degrees removed from a lot of tragedy. My grandfather, though, worked at the World Trade Center before he retired and moved to Florida. Most of my Dad’s family lives in Monmouth County, NJ, which lost 147 people in the attacks. I feel connected.

These days we all feel connected. Television this last week has all but made it impossible to escape the replays of the towers burning, the planes striking, the collapse and smoke and misery. Newspapers are running the headlines all week. Websites feature tributes, the radio runs urgent dispatches from a decade ago, their audio scratchy enough to underscore how old they’ve already become. Indeed, it was a time when television was still square, newspapers were still read, and cell phones were still dumb and dropped calls.

Inevitably, we all remember where we were. I started the morning at Smoky Mountain High School, where I was observing a class when a student came in to say there’d been a terrorist attack. I left, returned to my dorm room at Reynolds Hall at Western Carolina University, and watched the towers fall.

Peter Jennings told, or tried to tell as best he could, the story of the day. Amazingly, I was able to connect a single phone call to my relatives in Lincroft, NJ. They were safe. Nobody knew then how long this moment was going to last.

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