Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reflections on September 11, 2001

Reflections on September 11, 2001
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
September 1, 2011

Emerging from the parking garage beneath the Herndon Municipal Center to Lynn Street I felt as though I had been transformed to a different place and time, only to realize that is precisely what transpired.

For the first time I saw members of the Herndon Police Department clad in bullet-proof vests with their guns drawn. Streets were barricaded and access around town was limited. We were, after all, mere minutes from Dulles International Airport and the threat level was at its apex.

With all that was going on around us, the streets were eerily quiet. People were in a daze, as if punch-drunk, simply wandering around without purpose trying to come to grips with the devastating activities of the previous several hours.

But as a member of the fourth estate, I had a job to do and a deadline by which to accomplish that task – pictures to take and people to interview. The United States, in an unprovoked attack, was a nation at war, and Northern Virginia, just like New York City had just become the front line.

Among those certain quintessential events one never forgets in life, where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001 is certainly paramount among them.

Just as President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, “a date which will live in infamy,” it’s no overstatement to say that 9-11 was a day that changed the world as we know it.

It was a beautiful sunny Tuesday morning and I was on a deadline as a local newspaper reporter in Northern Virginia. Having the luxury of being able to work from my home in Sterling, one community away from Herndon in Fairfax County where I conducted the bulk of my reporting, the Fox News Channel was humming in the background while I finalized my story assignments for the paper that would hit the newsstands the next day.

Then, that clear, crisp Tuesday morning air was permeated with not one, but two hijacked airplanes deliberately being slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

As the towers crumbled to the ground like a house of cards and the smoke, that would last for weeks, began to billow toward the heavens, it was evident this was no accident and the United States was under siege, war having been declared on her.

I sat stunned, starring at the television, all attention away from the task at hand, not yet knowing those nearly finished stories would not reach my editor’s desk that day. Minutes later a third plane struck its target careening into the Pentagon in Arlington, just miles from the office. Everything became ethereal until the ringing telephone jarred me back to reality. And the ringing didn’t stop – one call after another – the newspaper with new assignments all related to the ongoing fluid events of the day and friends and family from around the country checking in.

By this time the fourth plane had been diverted by the brave men and women aboard the aircraft believed to be headed toward the Capitol Building and crashed into a field in Shanksville, PA.

Growing up in northern New Jersey and living in Northern Virginia, September 11, 2001 was more than just a day that tried ones emotions as an American. Personal loses were assessed at the end of the day. Family friends were slaughtered by extremist Muslim terrorists who inexorably altered life as we know it to this day 10 years later and far into the distant future.

My job on September 11, 2001 was to present the news – news based upon facts – to the residents of Herndon, VA and Fairfax County in an objective manner leaving my opinion on the back burner. That is what this award-winning journalist did on September 11 and each day of my employ for that newspaper.

Today, I have the good fortune to be able to opine at will and call to task those obsequious members of the government who have done so little since September 11, 2001 to alter the manner in which we protect our citizenry whether on the borders or in the air. A recent report in New York City indicated that 10 years after the terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center first responders still are unable to communicate with one another on the job.

Today, 10 years after knowing who perpetrated the most heinous acts of barbarism on American soil, the government still plays politics with disingenuous platitudes about a so-called religion of peace, when, for the truth, all one need do is read the pages of the Koran.

We the people of the United States must be forever vigilant as the terrorists only need be accurate once. We must remain mindful of our surroundings at all times, cognizant that the next terror strike will likely occur without warning and without prejudice as to who is in its wake.

On this September 11 and all days in the future, may we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the current global war – the men and women at work at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the passengers and crew of the hijacked planes, the first responders and all those that survive them. May their memories be for a blessing.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. On September 11, 2001 he was a reporter for a local newspaper in Northern Virginia.

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