Every so often in life something happens that changes the trajectory of life.
Nineteen years ago one of those changes occurred which was felt worldwide: terrorists hijacked airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Passengers rushed the hijackers of another aircraft, however they were unable to regain control and the aircraft crashed in a field, thankfully short of its intended target.
In New York City, the day began like any other, with people getting up and going to work.
Then tragedy struck, with first one plane striking the towers, then another. Fire crews from around the city raced to the scene to help those they could. Some of them never made it home. The New York Fire Department lost 343 members in the collapse of the towers that day, and the world watched events unfold live on the news.
If you ask most people, they know exactly where they were when they found out. Personally, I was at home in bed when my mom called me, telling me to turn on the television. I went into the living room, and turned the television on, moments before a passenger plane slammed into the second tower.
I know those attacks happened in another country, thousands of miles away, but the image of the plane hitting the tower is one that has forever changed me. It was when I realized that the world wasn’t quite as safe as I believed until that point.
At the time of the attacks, I was already dealing with some mental health issues, but regardless witnessing tragedy unfold made me want to help others even more. My wife at the time was supportive of me, but I struggled in the months after that tragedy.
Still, in time I was able to collect myself, and go back to work as an Emergency Medical Responder, serving my community the best way I knew how, but it was a rough road, and between 2001 and 2006 I had several hospital admissions. Despite the admissions, I succeeded as an EMR and once Lynn and I met, I even went back to school to become an Emergency Medical Technician.
I think the world collectively struggled after that tragedy. In the blink of an eye thousands of lives were lost. Having one foot in the first responder world at the time made me all the more aware of the struggles that the first responders faced.
Before the attacks that day, terrorism was a far off concept that happened everywhere else in far-off lands. These attacks hit home the fact that terrorism can be found anywhere, even in our own back yards.
The phrase “never forget 9/11” has been used lot’s over the years, however it seems like the memory fades a little bit more every year that passes. I know one thing for sure though. I will never forget. I won’t forget the greatest tragedy of my generation, nor will I forget the brave men and women who served as first-responders who gave their lives so others may live.
I may not be an active first-responder anymore, but my heart is still with them world wide, particularly on the anniversary of that fateful day.