I grew up amid the worry and horror of WW II and lost an uncle who was shot down over Germany. I served in the Air Force at the tail end of the Korean War. I had a brother who served two tours in Viet Nam with the 101st Airborne. He was never the same after and eventually took his own life. I struggled with all of that and more in my life, but made it through and I am blessed to still be on this earth today. But at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, my life and that of hundreds of millions of others, would be changed forever. No longer could we take what our lives had been like for granted. No longer could we go on and live our lives the way we had before that horrific morning.
The terrorists’ attacks with the hijacking of two American Airlines planes filled with travelers flying right into the World Trade Center. The hijacked plane flown into the Pentagon and the hijacked plane that was headed for the White House but was downed by heroes in a Pennsylvania field before its mission was completed transformed this country, and the world, into a haven of horror, fear, anxiety and tragedy. What happened on that day had been festering since the 1980’s when terrorist groups slowly began their dirty deeds that would take the lives of innocent people around the world. For whatever reason, politicians everywhere chose to ignore the warning signs and red flags preferring to just chalk these acts as an “isolated” incident or that it wasn’t their problem to get involved in. Fact: 9-11 was no isolated incident.
The loss of innocent lives in the planes, those trapped in the WTC and all the people on the ground from all of the smoke and fumes, etc was unimaginable. The scenes of the towers, the smoke and fire, first responders rushing to help and assist any way they could, the sounds of people screaming, sirens blasting and so much more have been etched in our minds forever. The numbers of lives lost on that day would be staggering and the loss of lives over these last eighteen years, as a direct result of the attack, continues to rise as many who helped and responded that day saw their health deteriorate and would give the greatest sacrifice of all.
On that morning I was in my usual routine, watching the CBS News, having my bagel and coffee before heading to the nursing home to see my wife Flo, who had suffered a stroke in March 2000 and was now in the beginning stages of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. After that I would head to the NightMoves offices for another day of working on our awards show and the magazine. At 8:49 a.m. I got a call from Paul Allen asking me if I had heard or seen what happened and I told him I had and was in total shock as we all were. With eyes glued to the TV we talked for a couple of minutes. Paul said this was not a day to worry about the show, the magazine or work, just stay with the news and follow everything taking place. It would take a day or two before we got back to some sense of normal and went back to our regular routine. One of the first things we did was postpone our awards show and rescheduled it for November. Like everyone else, while there were emergency orders and changes put into operation regarding travel, etc. no one was sure what it meant or for how long or what else would be changed. I can honestly say that over the past eighteen years, everything that we took as normal in our lives, has been changed. We can’t travel the same, we can’t shop the same, we can’t live our daily lives the same. We have seen more terror, more deaths, more shootings and mass killings than ever. We have been involved in wars in the Middle East seemingly forever. We have seen the suicide numbers continue to rise. We are still the greatest country in the world, but we are not the same country we were before that fateful day, a day that should have never happened. I could get very political here, but I won’t. We all have our views, thoughts, theories and feelings of how and why this happened and could have been avoided.
Like many, that day would become very personal to me. About a week or so later I received a shocking phone call. It was the daughter of our very best friends who called to inform me that her folks were on the second American Airlines plane that went into the WTC. We had known Gary and Linda over 30 years, we worked together, he was my best man, we vacationed together and we had just recently made plans to get together over the Christmas holidays when they were coming to Florida and in an instant that had all been taken away. So this date of Sept. 11, 2001 has become even more meaningful and personal to me. I know that there are thousands of people to whom this is also very personal and have similar stories of lost loved ones, family, friends, etc. I will always feel that pain for all those who lost loved ones on that fateful, horrific day.
I ask all of you to please take one minute out of your life today and say a silent prayer in remembrance of all those we lost. Yes, our world has changed forever, but in spite of it all this is still the greatest country in the world and always will be. God Bless America!
Art Koch, National Features & DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN