September 12, 2001: United we stood.

On this Thursday eve as I ready to welcome the start of the weekend, I cannot help but reflect upon the horrific attacks of 9/11/01.

In my life, 9/11 wasn’t always synonymous with the brutal and unimaginable murders of thousands of people that day, in NYC, the Pentagon, and PA. That was a day we will never, and should never, forget. However, 9/11 is also my father’s birthday and we are gifted with a reason to celebrate this Sunday.

While many of us carry on year after year, remembering the attacks yet going about our lives, I feel for the countless people who lost loved ones on that tragic day. Almost all of us knew someone, even if it was the family member, or friend of a friend – our lives connected with others who were impacted, their world changed forever. Every one of our lives, changed forever.

This weekend, I’m thinking of them. I’m praying for them, and the thousands of lives needlessly and savagely taken from us that day.

As the daughter of a firefighter and family and friend to many cops, I have the up close and personal on what it takes to run into a building that everyone else is running out of, or never know when you could be shot. I am well-informed on the psyche behind looking at a situation and knowing that you may not survive.

It may sound callous, though it’s not, but that is what they signed up for. It’s what they do and often, it’s as natural as breathing. It’s what most civilians take for granted until they need the fire department, or law enforcement. They are here to protect us, even if they sacrifice themselves and their family and friends pay the ultimate price.

My father loved his job. Never did I think of it as dangerous because of his passion. I chased fires with him, got to share in the recaps of ‘runs’ after a shift, and knew intuitively that if he didn’t come home one day, he was doing what he was born to do – that would have been my solace.

A grateful daughter, my father did come home at the end of each shift. He retired a true hero in every way, a decorated firefighter who received the Medal of Valor, but that’s such a miniscule testament to his heroism. He lives his life in a selfless manner, with a servant-style leadership approach. His generous spirit, infectious enthusiasm, and desire to inspire others is the hallmark of his character.

I say it every year. Firefighters and cops know when they start their shifts, they may not make it home. But the accountant on the 95th floor of the North Tower. The caterer delivering breakfast for a board meeting on the 79th floor of the South Tower, the first to fall that day at 9:59 am. They expect to come home each day. They never expected what hit them. My heart aches.

Travel for work was my norm for many years, though that didn’t commence until 2005, four years following the attacks. I recall the first BOS to LAX flight I boarded, taking off around 8am on a Tuesday morning, post 9/11. It gave me chills as I fought back the tears, thinking about the passengers and crew on those doomed flights. In actuality, I carried their memory on every flight I boarded – didn’t matter where I was traveling to.

Before embarked on my years of business travel, my grandfather (U.S. Navy Pearl Harbor Survivor, USS Nevada, the only ship to get underway during the attack) and I flew to Hawaii in 2000 to attend a Pearl Harbor Memorial Service on December 7 . The next year he made a last-minute decision to attend again, just three months after the attacks. Though it unnerved me, we made the trip. It had to be one of the safest times to travel. The National Guard presence was comforting, and security lines were non-existent because of the fear and angst surrounding air travel.

Tonight, as I reflect upon every moment and memory of 9/11/01, watching the footage capturing the events and stories of that day, I find myself longing for September 12, 2001.

Do you remember that day? Do you recall the unity? Do you remember the love for our country, the countless U.S. flags being flown and waved, everyone loving their neighbor? Do you remember the strength of our nation, the outrage we felt at being attacked?

How sad it is that today, we are attacking each other within our country. Terrorists are no longer our great fear, but rather, each other.

This weekend, may we rekindle that sense of patriotism and connection that we felt on 9/12. It was beautiful, moving and sincere. We were united – no matter what our color, religion, political affiliation or gender.

We desperately need this, more than ever. Let’s bring back the unity of 9/12/2001.

In memory of Gerard P. Dewan and David E. Retik. Despite your horrific deaths, may you both rest in peace.

Author: E.M. Murphy

A voracious writer, lifetime learner and eternal seeker who aims to open minds and hearts. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a NASM Certified Behavior Change Specialist, humanity and humor is at the heart of my writing, reminding us that the key to success will always start with a genuine concern for others while making sure to be true to our authentic selves.

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