There are now high school freshmen who were not yet born on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. They are learning about it as a historical event that didn’t happen in their lifetime.

I remember it like it was yesterday. My husband was in DC and my best friend was ON A PLANE headed to Baltimore with her one year old. Patrick and his co-workers had the presence of mind to go rent a car as soon as the airports were shut down. They drove across the country to get home. His friends stayed at our house for the night and then continued their journey west, final destination California.  They got one of the last rental cars available in Baltimore.

My best friend was fortunate that her flight was turned around immediately and allowed to return and land in Dallas, instead of putting wheels down wherever they were at the moment.  The flight attendants did not tell the passengers.  She had no idea until she landed what was happening.  I called her husband, he was frantic too. He raced to the airport to get her and the baby.  Our other bestie was by my side.  She called early in the morning. “I’m coming over.” She lived right next door, she came over all the time.  But the seriousness of that statement was just different that morning. We sat together in disbelief, all day. All week.  Until Patrick made it home.

I remember the whole day, and the days following– flyers of missing people and candles covering the walls and streets of NYC. The last phone calls that family members described. The agony of the missed calls, and hearing the voice mail recordings. And the videos. Played over and over and over.

I am not numb to it, I hope I never am. We can’t be. We owe it to the victims, the survivors, and the next generations, growing up in a very different world because of that day.

I have been to Ground Zero three times. The first time, it was a fenced off pile of rubble.  The second time, the memorial was almost done and open to visitors but we had to pass through security to get in the enclosed, heavily guarded area. The Freedom Tower was under construction.  My third and most recent visit was this past July. I was with Patrick, Olivia and Isabelle and they had never been.  It’s now a beautiful, wide open memorial park.  People can walk through it freely, sit on benches and reflect, or just stand at the edge of the fountains, which are surrounded by enormous slabs with the victim’s names etched forever, and listen to the sound of the water rushing down and disappearing into the dark void where the towers once stood.  It’s beautiful.  If you ever get a chance to go, go.

** I took this photo of a rose left resting on someone’s name with the fountains glistening in the background. It doesn’t do it justice.  But it’s my favorite.  And I’ll probably share it and write about it every year on this day.