Ten years. Ten years ago today, I was living in Northern California serving as a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Aka, the Mormons. Shocking, I know.
I was training a greenie at the time (a brand new missionary) and we received a phone call letting us know what had happened. During your time as a missionary, you're not permitted to listen to the radio or watch television or movies. Phone calls home and the internet were out as well so we were pretty much out of the loop when it came to current events. I remember thinking how sad it was for the families who lost loved ones but had no inkling as to the full impact of what had just happened.
My greenie and I went out that day to go tracting. (Knocking doors. Yep. Just like the JW's) There were more people home and actually opening their doors than usual. Quite a few people were crying and asked us how, if there really is a God, could he allow something like this to happen? A couple of people were angry and took it out on us. Basically asking the same question but in the form of screaming it in our faces then slamming the door. Most people, however, reacted with empathy, sympathy and love. We were invited in and asked to pray. Sometimes we said the prayers, sometimes they did, but the theme was always the same. Comfort those who are afraid. Be with those who have just lost their loved ones. Help the rescuers find those who are trapped and waiting. And those who were killed, welcome them home with open arms.
Going door to door in the weeks that followed, I had never seen so many American flags or such a fierce devotion to a Nation. I don't think I have ever been more proud to be an American...even if I am a watered down version.
It wasn't until months later after I had returned home (a mission for women lasts 18 months) that I truly understood the full impact of the attack. I finally watched some of the footage. I saw some of the photos. I saw the people covered in dust, ash and debris with the wet trail of tears streaking their faces. I saw the pictures of the office workers falling to their death with their ties flapping in the wind. I saw the families heartbreaking pleas to find their missing loved ones.
This is when it hit me. The hatred of the attackers. The devastation. The families that will never be the same again. The bravery. The sacrifices. The overwhelming outpouring of support and love from strangers across the country. And this was when I felt that lump get lodged in my throat. My stomach clenched and my eyes welled up. I did my best to force that damn lump back down where it belonged. I hate crying. I hate crying in front of other people. But there was no stopping it. The tears came and refused to be staunched.
It was a terrible, tragic event that still stuns me . However, that year, I had never been more proud of this country and thinking of the noble, valiant heroes from that day and the weeks that followed, still gives me goosebumps.