On this, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, the thoughts of all Americans turn to those who lost their lives during that horrible day.
Everyone has a story about where they were or what they were doing that day.
This is mine;
I was living in Las Vegas and working for a company that assisted elderly patients in obtaining their pharmaceuticals. I had just started working the early morning shift and arrived at my work at 5:00am PST, less than an hour before the attacks began. Shortly after the first plane hit the North Tower, one of my co-workers, who was listening to a portable radio, was relaying information to the rest of us. After the second plane hit, everyone just knew there was something horribly wrong happening.
My wife, Carolyn and I were in a long-distance relationship at the time. She was in NYC with her mom and sister that day. They were out in front of the TODAY show studio at NBC when the first reports of the attack came in. This, of course would have made me a nervous wreck...if I had remembered that she was in New York that day. I didn't remember (which is something my wife loves to point out, BTW!). I am almost glad that I didn't remember. I was worried about another loved one.
Back in 2001, my brother Michael worked for the U.S. Government as a computer security consultant. He had served many years in the Navy and also as a Marine. He had just moved into his new offices...in the Pentagon. That, I remembered. At 9:37am EST, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the Pentagon, killing 184 people. For the entire day, I tried to contact my brother, fearing the worst. Eventually, I found out that he was in an adjacent building at the time of the crash. My future wife managed to drive like a bat out of hell (or out of NYC as it were) just before they closed the bridges. She called me, thinking I'd be worried sick about her. Um...
It was a harrowing day for everyone. But, the days that followed were, for me, even worse. On September 12, my mother suffered a stroke during a routine medical procedure. I dropped her off at the hospital for a test where they inject dye into your bloodstream to try and detect any blockages. During the test, a piece of a arterial plaque dislodged and traveled into her brain, causing a stroke. When I got back to the hospital, I found out my mother had lost the ability to speak. I remember her writing something on a piece of paper and giving it to me. It said 'I love you.'
Over the next week, I watched coverage of the aftermath of the attacks from a hospital room while my mother recovered from the stroke. Her speech began to improve although she had trouble finding the right words to convey her thoughts. It's a condition called aphasia. Soon, she came home and all signs pointed to her being okay. She was put on a blood-thinning medication to prevent any other possible blockages from occurring. One month later, on October 12, my mother complained she was having a migraine. It got progressively worse and eventually, she was taken by ambulance, back to the hospital. Before she got into the ambulance, I remember she wanted me to make sure that I took care of her purse. It was the last time I would ever speak to my mother. Less than 24 hours later, I made the toughest decision of my life...I had to have my mom taken off life support.
She suffered a massive brain hemorrhage that could not be controlled due to the blood thinners she had been taking. There was no chance of recovery. The doctors told me that there was no chance my mother would regain consciousness. I said my goodbyes, held her hand and watched as she slowly passed.
I was so grateful that Carolyn flew out immediately to be by my side during that time. She was a tremendous source of strength and support for me then and, of course now. Those weeks are little more than a blur to me now. I feel oddly detached from the national events of that day and the weeks that followed. I was dealing with a personal tragedy at the time.
So, no...I will never forget.