None of us will ever forget where we were on Sept. 11, 2001.
I was still asleep when my brother Karl called me to tell me that a plane had just crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I jumped out of bed and turned on the TV, tuning in to the Today show on NBC. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric looked just as stunned and confused as I was. We were obviously thinking the same thing: What a horrible accident! Unaware of what was still to come, I kept thinking, "How are they ever going to repair that building?"
Matt and Katie talked about the incident while showing live footage of smoke billowing from one of the twin towers. I gasped when — live on Today — I watched as a plane crashed into the second tower. It gives me chills even now as I think about it. I knew then — as did the rest of the world — that this was no accident. We were under attack.
When the report came in that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon, I started getting really scared. I called my dad, who was at work at Abbott Laboratories in North Chicago. I was in tears on the phone as I asked him, "Dad, what is going on?" I knew he had no answer for me, but whenever something bad is happening, I always turn to my dad. He seemed to be as scared as I was.
I watched in absolute disbelief as one tower fell, and then the other. I cried and prayed for the people who were still in those towers when they came crashing down. I vividly remember yelling at the TV, "There are people in there!"
In the days and weeks that followed, I interviewed local residents about how they felt. I attended both organized and impromptu candlelight vigils. I displayed an American flag in my car. I never had felt such a sense of patriotism.
Every year, I watch the re-broadcast of the Today show's Sept. 11 coverage and remember the lives that were lost. Never did I think, though, that I'd actually get to visit Ground Zero and pay my respects. When I was hired as an editor for Patch last year, however, I got to fly to New York City for training. I still can remember how I felt as my cab driver drove me from the airport to my hotel and I saw the New York City skyline for the first time. It was a truly surreal experience. It was like I could feel the sorrow of all of the lives lost there.
The next day, another new editor and I walked from our hotel to Ground Zero. It was the day after it had been announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. The mood at Ground Zero wasn't celebratory like I'd expected. Instead, it was very quiet — other than occasional construction noise. I took pictures of the flowers and other trinkets that had been left at the site. I was so glad that I'd gone there.
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