In the afternoon of the day prior, I flew from Jacksonville to Fort Lauderdale to attend a regular regional business meeting. The group, made from managers from all over Florida, joined one another for a nice dinner and then held a packed meeting the following day, followed by return home in the evening. So, after a nice social hour and meal, we retired early in order to be fresh and raring to go in the morning.
We assembled at the meeting site about seven-thirty and enjoyed a continental breakfast with coffee before getting down to business. The meeting began at eight sharp and we were just getting in full gear when one of the corporate secretaries ran into the office and, with tears on her face, whispered into the ear of our boss, the Florida region manager. She was normally a very friendly and outgoing person but she appeared in shock and when she left our leader said the business meeting was suspended. He then rolled a portable TV into the room and what we saw on the screen left us numb. It was a picture of the first World Trade Center tower ablaze with smoke everywhere. And then, only moments later, we saw the second plane plow into the other tower with an ensuing blast as glass and portions of the building structure exploded outward.
We sat there in total silence and then Bob, our leader, asked the secretary to call the airport since we already knew flights would be cancelled. When she came back, we were asked if we all had rental cars and when we all answered yes, she told us that the rental car company said there would be no charge if we turned our cars in at the nearest rental location to our home. All airports were closed for the remainder of the day due to security concerns.
I remember the drive north on I-95 that day, wondering why someone would want to do this and asking myself what it meant for the future. I made two stops, one near West Palm Beach for a cup of coffee and the next at Ormond Beach for a bite to eat. At both locations people in the establishments were quiet and hushed, some with tears, others showing anger on their face. And I specifically remember at Ormond Beach that the TV commentator mentioned that a group of people on the roof of a building in Brooklyn was cheering the carnage. It was even said that the building was heavily occupied with legal aliens from the Middle East. Today, no one will claim that to be true although thousands tuned in like me undoubtedly heard it.
When I got home, my wife was waiting for me and as we sat down for a snack before turning in, she asked me what I thought. I am not ashamed to say that my eyes teared up as I told her there was some organization somewhere that hated America so much that they would do anything to create a climate of fear, death, chaos and destruction. I vowed that day to never forget and I haven't. And on this day each year I take time to quietly pray for the end of hate in the hearts of so many and its replacement with love for one another. After all, it's what Jesus expects of us and only His way can solve all problems. But I will also admit that I display this picture each year on this day in remembrance of the thousands who needlessly died.
So, that was my day on 9/11, a day like Pearl Harbor that will live in my mind in infamy. How was your day those seventeen years ago? Never forget.