8:46. 9:03. 9:37. 10:03.
The numbers hold no intentional significance; they are times on the 24-hour clock cycle and that’s all they may be. But, that’s not all the numbers are, not on Sept. 11.
Imagine walking through the streets of New York City near the World Trade Center, thinking the day’s going to be as normal as it gets. You’d get up, go where you need to be and continue on with the day, completely oblivious to the awaiting horrors. Then, you hear the first plane hit the north tower at 8:46 a.m. As you look up, all you can see is thick smoke and a gaping hole in the building.
Already, the news is being broadcasted while first responders arrive at the scene. There’s then a 17-minute period of waiting and uncertainty. There’s the second plane colliding into the south tower at 9:03 a.m.
Then, there’s another attack at 9:37 a.m. in Washington D.C. at the Pentagon and a plane crash in a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m.
People, with different plans for the day and from all different walks of life—in the span of an hour—were lost.
I was merely a baby when 9/11 happened, and I wasn’t old enough to remember the incident. I had been at a babysitter’s house; I simply remember my mom telling me she came to pick me up early and hugged me; she was sad, afraid. She even saw a plane fly over our home, and at first, feared the lone plane may be hijacked, but realized it was a military fighter jet. This is the fear instilled in the American people during 9/11, and thereafter.
I hear about 9/11 every year. I see all the pictures and videos, hear all the stories of tragedy and death with minimal narratives of survival and hope.
A story that hits close to home each year is the “man in the red bandana,” also known by the name of Welles Remy Crowther. His story resonated with me; I don’t know why, but each year I think about him.
He saved lives, but unfortunately died in the process of the tower collapse, his body not being recovered for six months. His family, not knowing of his whereabouts following 9/11, discovered through a New York Times article about a “man in a red bandana” who had helped escort people to safety in the chaos.
Allison Crowther, the man’s mother, figured it had to be her son as he carried a red bandana at all times, and soon, had the chance to confirm his identity with survivors and eyewitnesses. He’s one of the heroes that gave way to others’ stories of survival.
His story has touched my heart, and the last time I went to New York in 2014, I took time to find his name on the 9/11 Memorial Pool, where the names of the victims of 9/11 are spelled out. When I found his name, I ran my hand over the granite and I broke down.
Though I never experienced the day of 9/11 enough to remember, and all I have are pictures, video footage and stories, I—despite the pain it brings me—look at the pictures and videos each year. It reminds me of that day, of the people that died and how it so horribly affected Americans.
It’s like thinking about the fall of an empire or the rise of an evil; the U.S. fell that day. Americans wanted nothing more than to forget what had befallen them and reverse the day. People were angry, sad, traumatized and lifeless. Seeing people falling from windows, screams erupting from trembling lips, people covered in dust and blood; it’s still such a surreal image.
But it’s all I think about when remembering 9/11. I want to break down from the hurt, thinking about all the innocent lives lost that day.
As the anniversary approaches, take time to think and remember the tragedies of the day, but take the day to spend with loved ones, tell them you love them; we don’t know what tomorrow holds.
9/11 is an unforgettable and harrowing event that will haunt the history of the United States.
It didn’t simply affect one American, but each and every individual present in a classroom, workplace or wherever they stood at before, after or in-between these times:
8:46. 9:03. 9:37. 10:03.