Every year on September 11th we are enveloped in news programs, in pictures and in stories about the collective experience of September 11, 2001. Without a doubt, that was the worst day for America in my lifetime.
It was a bright, clear, chilly Tuesday morning in Detroit. I took a break from work and went to the gym. For some unremembered reason, I had to go to work very early that day and could not workout at my normal 5:30AM. As a competitive bodybuilder in those days, I couldn’t miss a workout.
It was before 9:00AM. I had just finished a set of heavy shoulder presses when I glanced over at the cardio area. It appeared as though just about everyone had paused on their StairMasters, treadmills and the like. I glanced over again after finishing my next set and they were all still doing NOTHING – except staring at the TV sets that hung from the ceiling.
Something didn’t seem right. I understand a short rest – but everyone doesn’t pause at the same time.
The longer I looked, the more strange it became.
Their eyes were glued to the TV sets.
So out of curiosity, I walked over to that side of the gym, spun around and looked up at the closest TV. One of my fellow gym-rats said, “An airplane just hit a building in New York.”
Intrigued, I stood and watched for a minute and, BOOM! The TV announcers freaked-out as another plane hit the second tall building in the Trade Center complex. It quickly became obvious that we were not watching a replay of the earlier plane hit when I said, “We’re at War.”
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I headed directly home. I was shaken and I wanted to be with my wife so we could make a plan with our kids. The oldest was in East Lansing at Michigan State – a one hour drive. Our youngest (my ‘little girl’) was at Illinois State – an eight our drive, each way.
My mind raced. Will there be more attacks?
As I was driving home listening to an all-news radio station, I learned that yet another plane had hit the Pentagon at 9:45AM
I arrived home and shared the horrible news with my wife Paula and the TV is turned on for the rest of the day.
Then, at 9:59AM, the south tower at the World Trade Center collapsed. While we were collecting our thoughts about that horrible event, we learned that a plane had crashed to the ground out in the middle of Ohio, somewhere.
“How much more is going to happen?” my wife shrieked in fear. That was a question which would linger over us for some time.
After talking about it, we decided it best to leave the kids where they were – away from major population centers. Probably safer than in suburban Detroit very close to the plant where all of the airplanes were built that flew in World War II.
By nightfall, we had become somewhat confident that the worst of it was over. All air traffic had ceased across the nation. Everything was either cancelled or closed.
Home was the place to be. “This Tuesday will live in infamy,” I thought to myself as I drifted off to sleep.
A NEW DAY DAWNS IN AMERICA
On Wednesday, everyone was absorbed with what seemed like a thousand stories about rumors they had heard. As expected, most proved to be groundless.
My biggest worry was that I was scheduled to fly to Omaha in two days to begin a six-week gig. My company had been hired by the Omaha Police Department to train all of the officers in the Uniform Patrol Bureau on how to use their new in-car computers. These were their first.
They’d be getting their calls via CAD, running tags and VINs along with DL numbers and getting their own returns. Scary, huh?
There were no airplanes flying. How am I going to get there? My wife and I packed-up my car and come Wednesday afternoon … off I went. Driving from Detroit to Omaha takes longer than 15 minutes. But, I arrived safely late Thursday.
Know what I saw when I arrived? American flags. EVERYWHERE. They were on businesses and more surprising, it seemed that ever home had one flying, as well. I told my wife when I called to let her know I had arrived. She said it was the same at home, too!
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Here I was – a stranger in a new place. The next few days were very busy. I think I was introduced to about a million new cops from Omaha. And every one of them made me feel like a long, lost brother.
I met a whole bunch of Omaha folks in those first days. Each meeting started out with us as strangers and finished with us as Fellow Americans. As the very wise Frank Borelli said (he’s much older and wiser than me): “We were all Americans first.”
We held doors for one another. We patted each other on the back. We gave hugs. We loved our country and our fellow Americans.
Race and gender didn’t matter. Political parties were forgotten. The picky-assed bullshit that folks whine about today wasn’t even a thought to consider. We were Americans and we were bound tightly together.
The media would regularly broadcast pictures of entire streets of homes where every one of them had a flag waving high in the breeze.
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Every one of us wanted show our American pride. For most of the guys I was hanging with back then … every single one was ready to throw down or pick up a Glock, a Sig, an AR or whatever to defend our nation.
WHAT TO DO – TODAY
Let’s go back to just being Americans. How ‘bout it? I know we can do it. We Americans can do ANYTHING we put our mind to.
We can even act like we love one another.
I know that would make the Big Guy (upstairs) smile. It would make my Dad and Grandpa smile. Heck, I’d wear a big grin for that, too.
Following is a pictured walk down memory lane. It will remind all of us of how we felt some eighteen years ago and why we should stick together now.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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