Joanna and I loved to visit New York City between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and did so several times over the years. We’d take in a couple of broadway shows, eat, drink and enjoy that festive time of year in the Big Apple. As we made plans in the weeks ahead, 2001 was to be no different. Then came that terrible morning of Tuesday, September 11.
Upon serious thought, we decided to keep our plans to travel there the first week of December. Needless to say, the mood in the city was completely different this time.
I won’t go into a lot of detail of what we saw as we walked the city. It was as if we were in a sacred place. Below, a photo of Joanna talking with a New York State Park Policeman in the financial district. As described by the state website: “Typically, the State Park Police handle very large crowds, assist park users, search for and rescue missing persons, make arrests, conduct criminal and non-criminal investigations, and provide emergency services wherever and whenever they are needed.” Their services were certainly needed at that time to augment the tapped-out city police.
St. Paul’s Chapel played a key role in the aftermath of the attacks. As described on the Trinity Church website: “After the attacks of September 11, 2001, St. Paul’s Chapel, which sits directly across the street from the World Trade Center site, suffered no physical damage.” Check out the website for the Chapel’s incredible story about the part it played in the many months post-9/11.
The iron fence encircling the chapel became a makeshift memorial, with ball caps and other memorabilia hanging off the pointed finials and giant sheets hanging down for folks to write their thoughts. Joanna, being the wordsmith she was, took sharpie in hand and added hers to it. I thought I had a photo of her writing on it, but couldn’t find it – had to settle for this one. It’s probably just as well – it was her sentiment and not mine to share.
On September 14, 2001 President Bush surveyed the damage and delivered a speech via bullhorn at Ground Zero. He responded to a rescue worker who said he couldn’t hear him: “I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” On October 7, 2001, twenty-six days after the attack, the war in Afghanistan began to hunt down those responsible. Almost ten years later, on May 2, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed the al-Qaida leader.
From the website FactCheck: “The Trump administration in February 2020 negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban that excluded the Afghan government, freed 5,000 imprisoned Taliban soldiers and set a date certain of May 1, 2021, for the final withdrawal.”
FactCheck reports: On April 14, 2021 “Saying it is ‘time to end the forever war,’ Biden announces that all troops will be removed from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.”
More than 800,000 American service members and 25,000 civilians served in Afghanistan over the almost 20-year mission. A total of 2,461 US service members and civilians were killed and more than 20,000 were injured. On August 30, 2021, our involvement in the war came to an end as the last C-17 aircraft departed the Kabul airport.
This week, 20 years after those tragic events in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC, these words from Deepak Chopra seem appropriate.
“For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent, and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity, and laughter.”