Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

It is hard for me to believe that it has been 10 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington, D.C. Some days it feels like they happened just a few weeks ago, but other times it feels as if it was a million years ago. While the focus of this blog is to document the ups and downs of my third decade, I think it is important to remember the key events that influenced the person I am today and the person I will be tomorrow. There is no doubt that the events of 9/11/01 had a huge impact on me. They catapulted me from the cocoon of late adolescence into the reality of adulthood.

I was 20 on that day. I lived at home while I was in college, and decided to participate in an internship program. This was the first time I had really lived on my own. My internship at Walt Disney World started in late August of that year and was enjoying my newfound freedom. Even though I had an early shift on that day, my roommates and I had spent much of the previous night out with some tourist friends we had met. I wasn’t worried, because all I had to do that day was great guests as they entered the attraction where I worked, and at 20 I didn’t need a whole lot of sleep for that.

About an hour after I started work, one of the trainers in my area came around and asked me if I had see anything suspicious. He told me to keep an eye out for anything strange and let management know immediately if I saw anything, but did not say much else. About 30 minutes later he came back and told me what was going on in New York and that park leadership was deciding the best plan of action. Not long after, he came back to tell me that the park would be closing shortly and I should tell guests it was due to a national security situation. At that point no one knew what would be the next target, but an American Icon like Walt Disney World was definitely not out of the realm of possibly.

We cleared the guests out of our area and lined up to wave goodbye and answer their questions. It was strange to see the guests quickly filing out of the park on beautiful, clear, sunny day. Closely following the guests, were security personnel and police officers with bomb sniffing dogs looking for anything suspicious. Once the guests had left the park, we were taken to a conference room with a television and given the details of the day’s events. This is the first time I saw the haunting images of the twin towers and the pentagon. We were told to go back to our apartment complex and wait for further information and instructions.

I spent the next 24 hours glued to the television along with my roommates. We were all far from home and not sure what was going to happen next. Sharing this experience is part of what cemented my friendship with these amazing women into what it is today. Since we were all away from our families, so we made our own family.

I was very lucky because I did not know anyone who died in this tragedy, but it has impacted my life in so many ways. That day was the first time I really realized we never know how much longer we have on this earth and it is important to say “I love you” to the important people in your life. It was also the first time I realized that safety is not guaranteed. 

Since that day, I have gone on with my life and things have gotten back to normal. There are days when I don’t think about the attacks, but to this day I still look twice when I see or hear a plane that seems a little close. I am thankful for the men and women who protect us. It is important that we never forget the lessons learned that day and pass those lessons along to the next generation.