Like many people I am taking a few moments out of my day today to remember. This is a day to remember heroes and remember the fallen.
There are two dates that will live in my memory for as long as I am alive. The first date is January 28th, 1986. For those of you who don’t know this date, this was when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. I remember it vividly. We were watching the launch in school. I can still see the thrusters flying away from the main cloud of the explosion. It happened 73 seconds into the flight. For me it was jarring. At the time I wanted to be a pilot and possibly an astronaut. This disaster brought home the danger of traveling in space, something we took for granted at the time, after all it was the 10th mission for the Challenger. That was my first experience with a national loss. We were so proud of the men and women who decided to tempt fate and go into the great void beyond our atmosphere. Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnick were, and still are some of my greatest heroes.
The second date is, of course, September 11, 2001. I was home in my apartment in a suburb of Denver getting ready for work when my boss called and told me to turn on the television. I watched in shock as one, then a second plane flew into the towers. I watched for almost an hour, not being able to turn away. The towers fell and chaos reigned. Clouds of dust made the people at ground zero look like ghosts of the people who were in the towers as they came down. I can’t imagine the horror of something like that. I tore myself away long enough to grab my television and make the 15 minute drive to work, a Petco where I was an assistant manager. The few people who came to work sat with me in the office watching the horror unfold. We were all shocked, scared, and angry. We wanted answers, and we wanted the culprits to hang.
In the week following I tried to rejoin the military. I wanted to be a part of the mission to bring the terrorists to justice. Unfortunately, my medical discharge from the Army destroyed any chance of rejoining. Apparently people with blown out knees do not make very good soldiers.
The first responders at ground zero were the true heroes. When everyone was running to safety, they were the ones running into the ash, doing whatever they could to help. They showed us all what courage, bravery, and sacrifice truly meant. I do not know their names, but they will always be more of a hero to me than anyone wearing a cape.
The world has changed much since then. Some changes were for the better, others made a hard world even tougher to manage. An entire generation has grown up in the aftermath of 9/11. My daughter was almost 3 when the towers fell, and my son was born long after. It makes me scared to think of what calamities are in the future where they will always remember where they were when “it” happened.
So take some time today to remember those heroes. Remember the service men and women who volunteered to be a part of the mission to bring our enemies to justice. Some of them did not make it back. They are the heroes. Never forget!