9/11/01: Where Were You?

Friday - 9/10/2010, 4:00am EDT

Millions of people first eligible to vote in the 2008 election were just kids (grade or middle school) on 9-11-01. For them, domestic terrorist attacks like the shoe-bomber or the underwear bomber may not seem real. Or serious.

The impact on them varied, obviously. My guess would be it hit kids hardest in New York City and Washington where locals could see the smoke and the traffic gridlock. Or who maybe lost a friend or relative that day.

But for the average 10 or 11 year old, now hopefully a registered voter and employed or in school, it probably wasn't a defining moment - like Pearl Harbor or the assassinations of John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. - for their generation. That moment, for them, is yet to come.

But a lot of us, and maybe especially feds, media types and those in the business of protecting lives, do remember it vividly.

Four airplanes departing from Boston, Washington Dulles, and Newark were hijacked and between 8:46 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. had crashed into the North and South Twin Towers in Manhattan, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. Passengers on one of the hijacked planes headed for D.C. apparently managed to overpower the hijackers and crash the plane in Somerset County, Pa., about 125 miles from the U.S. Capitol building and the White House. Thirty-seven passengers and seven crew died, but they undoubtedly saved a lot more lives in the downtown Washington area.

It was up-close-and-personal for lots of us: My oldest son had just caught a bus in front of the Pentagon heading for D.C. My youngest son was at Dulles airport when American Flight 77 was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. A friend of my youngest daughter lost her mother who was on that flight. A Pentagon-based fed friend of mine now working in Indianapolis had taken her husband to the doctor that morning. The airplane sliced into the Pentagon just below her office.

I had just come into the office at Federal News Radio, located in Cleveland Park which is one of the highest points in the city. My old office was one block from the White House (which was thought to be the target of Flight 77). From my (then) new building we would watch the Pentagon burn, then smoke for days.

A couple of weeks later, I spoke with a supervisory air traffic controller. On 9-11 she had dropped her kids off at daycare and reported for work. When she arrived she was told that the WTC and Pentagon had been hit, that there were 12 to 17 commercial aircraft near D.C. or NY that were unaccounted for and that an unidentified aircraft (or aircrafts) were shadowing Air Force One which has just taken off from Florida.

First responders and ordinary people did heroic things that day. Between 100 and 300 people jumped from the upper stories of the WTC to escape death by burning. They jumped from between 1,000 and 1,300 feet (about twice the height of the Washington Monument) and were in the air approximately 10 seconds. One of them landed on, and killed, a NYC firefighter. He was one of dozens of firefighters and cops who died going back into buildings to save people.

The children of feds who were killed in the Pentagon have all been promised a free ride to the college of their choice. That's a wonderful, generous offer but they would probably rather have their mother or father back.

It's up to everybody how they choose to remember 9/11/01. Many schools, even in the D.C. area, don't teach it or tell kids about it. But there must be a way, without burning some other religion's holy book in a Florida barbecue pit, to make sure people remember this day.

And why.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

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