Thirteen years ago today.
It is, once again, September 11.
A different September 11th from that one, 13 years ago.
That September 11th was one of those glorious days we sometimes get in early September, with crystal-clear blue skies and a hint of crispness in the air.
Today, it is warm and humid, with a chance of rain and thunderstorms.
That September 11th was a day for looking forward.
Today, it is a day for looking back.
That September 11th was a day when more than 3,000 men, women and children were alive, healthy, strong.
Today, they are names on the walls.
In New York, they are inscribed in brass.
They begin with Gordon M. Aamoth, Jr.
They end with Igor Zukelman.
In Pennsylvania, they are chiseled into stone.
They begin with Christian Adams.
They end with Kristin Gould White.
At the Pentagon, they are in steel and granite.
They begin with Paul W. Ambrose.
They end with Yuguang Zheng.
They were Americans and British and Pakistanis and Dominicans and Indians — citizens of more than 90 countries. They were men, and women, and children. On that day, they were as old as 85 years. They were as young as two. Some were as yet unborn: eleven of the women were pregnant on that day.
And on that day, 13 years ago today, the light each of them represented in this world was snuffed out. Some died in an instant, vaporized by fireballs. Some died long agonizing terrifying minutes later, trapped in the smoke and the flames. Some died jumping from the upper floors of the Twin Towers. Or lost in the smoke-filled labyrinthine corridors of the Pentagon. Or in a field in Pennsylvania.
Today, as last year and the year before and the year before, on each anniversary of that day, the names of those lost will be read aloud at remembrances in New York and Pennsylvania and northern Virginia. In New York, the readers will pause, as they have paused each year, for six moments of silence:
• At 8:46 a.m., the time when a plane piloted by murderous fanatics slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
• At 9:03 a.m., the time when a second plane piloted by even more murderers slammed into the South Tower.
• At 9:37 a.m., the time when a third plane crashed into the Pentagon’s west side.
• At 9:59 a.m., the time when the South Tower imploded and fell, raining debris and ash on the city.
• At 10:03 a.m., when yet a fourth plane crashed into a field in the Pennsylvania countryside.
• And at 10:29 a.m., the time when the North Tower fell.
And as the names are read, we who survived that day will weep.
For all that was lost.
For all that should have been.
For all who perished.
For the pain of all who loved them.
And we will remember.
We will not let those lives be forgotten.
So today I pause again to reflect. Only days after that day, in 2001, I stood in the wreckage of lower Manhattan. And I made a promise that September all those years ago. A solemn pledge that I would remember.
It is a pledge I have tried to keep, by writing and posting these 9/11 essays every year since 2001.1
And as in years gone by, it is time again now to remember. To open, once more, the film cannister into which I brushed some of the dust of Ground Zero. To touch that dust with my own hands. And, once again, to stand witness. To make sure that I do not forget. That we do not forget. That no-one forgets. That all those lives will never be forgotten.
To say, one more time, this year and every year, as long as I have life and breath, in words and images, NEVER FORGET.
Images: © Judy G. Russell.