Remembering 9/11

I will certainly never forget the moment I first learned of the attacks of September 11, 2001. At the time, I was a few weeks into my first semester of law school at Pace Law in White Plains. I’m an early riser, so I would get to school at 6:00 am to study in the quiet basement of one of the classroom buildings with no distractions.

After studying for a few hours, I headed out to my car to get a book at about 9:00 am. Normally, at this time of the morning, students are streaming from the parking lot to the classroom buildings. But for some reason, on this day, everyone was walking to their cars and leaving. I asked a classmate what was going on and she said, “You don’t know? We’re at war. Terrorists blew up one of the Twin Towers.” I said, “Oh my God, my sister Sue works in one of the Twin Towers.” She asked, “Which one?” But at the moment I couldn’t remember which one. I just knew she worked way up in one of the towers. So I was hoping that the tower that was hit was not the one my sister worked in.

I listened to the radio in my car for news updates. And then reports came across that the second tower was hit. Then one tower fell. Then the other. I hoped for the best, but feared the worst, and I knew the worst was a real possibility.

Reports of the second tower falling were devastating. Cell phones weren’t working so I couldn’t call my sister or my parents or any of my other siblings.

A few hours went by and finally I got hold of my mother who answered the phone not by saying, “Hello”, but by saying, “She wasn’t in the building.”

I have three sisters and two brothers. My youngest sister Meghan’s birthday is September 11th. Sue, who worked on the 92nd Floor of the North Tower had baked a birthday cake for Meghan the night of September 10th. On the morning of 9/11 Sue was icing the cake. The cake altered Sue’s schedule, and she took a different subway than normal and arrived at work at a later time. When she came up from the subway the first plane had just hit.

The plane hit the North Tower just below her offices. The fire below made it impossible for anyone above it to go down the stairs. Her colleagues survived the impact of the plane but all 69 of them perished when the tower fell.

Over the years, I’ve heard many stories of survival on 9/11. And even more inspiring are the stories of ordinary Americans who performed acts of extraordinary heroism like NYPD officer Moira Smith, who went in and out of the burning tower pulling people to safety. She went back into the building one last time when the tower collapsed and she was killed.

And the Henry Family of first responders. A father and his four sons answered the call on 9/11 with youngest son, Joseph Patrick Henry, killed along with his entire unit from Ladder 21.

William Rodriguez, was a maintenance worker at the World Trade Center who had a master key. Rodriquez bravely led firefighters up the stairs unlocking doors as they ascended saving at least 15 lives.

And the passengers on Flight 93 who helped subdue the terrorists and crash the plane in Pennsylvania, possibly sparing a deadlier attack on the White House or the U.S. Capitol.

The events of that day and the heroes of that day also inspired other selfless Americans like my friend Lance Corporal Mike Glover. In his mid-20s, he enlisted in the Marine Corps after 9/11 and died fighting terrorists in Iraq, a cross made of World Trade Center steel around his neck.

In short, 9/11 was a violent, horrific and sad day that brought out the best in everyday Americans. It was at once our darkest hour and our finest hour.

May we never forget the victims and heroes of 9/11. May God bless them and this great country.