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Reflections on Sept. 11, 2001

By Bart Moss

I remember it just like it was yesterday.

I was newly married and working in marketing at Fontaine Trailer Company in Haleyville. iPhones didn’t exist. Social media barely existed. The Internet was growing rapidly, but you had to type in a URL (you know…http://www.?) to get to a website. Streaming video was good but not great.

I worked in an office with several other men. Most were older than me by 10-20 years, so, I was the computer nerd. I had been hired a few years earlier to build and manage the company websites. I knew my way around the internet pretty well.

I had just arrived at the office and sat down at my desk. I turned on my computer and went to my “go to” news website, The Drudge Report. If you’ve never heard of it, it is always in the top two or three ranked news sites on the internet. He broke the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky story in the 90s.

There was a link about a plane hitting the one of the World Trade Center buildings.

I clicked on the link, and the reports were still sketchy. Most of the early coverage was of the “small plane accidently hitting the building” variety.

It didn’t take long to realize that what was unfolding was life-altering.

I was one of the few in the office with the ability to get streaming video going, and most everyone in the sales office was gathered around my computer watching as the second tower was hit, then the Pentagon and later when the towers came crashing to the ground.

It was crazy. Who knew what to expect next? All aircraft was being grounded. Air Force One and President George W. Bush were in unknown locations. There were reports of stray aircraft heading for the Capitol, the White House, the Golden Gate Bridge and other locations. No one really knew what was going on. They could only speculate.

One thing was for sure – things were never going to be the same again.

That afternoon, my niece Mallory was born. She would be the first of my Mom and Dad’s six grandchildren. It was a great ending to a horrible day.

Mallory turned 17 Tuesday. We never forget her birthday and never will.

I had never been to New York City prior to the terrorist attacks. I never had any desire to go there. I thought I would hate it. I thought it was unsafe – that terrorists or muggers were lurking around every corner and in every subway car.

About five years after the terrorist attacks, I finally relented to my wife, and we went to New York City for the first time.

I loved it. I loved the energy of the city. The people were nice and helpful when you asked questions. I loved the fact that I could get any kind of food I wanted within a few blocks’ walk. And I never felt unsafe at any time.

I have been back to New York City either with my family, friends, or high school students 13 times since that first trip 12 years ago. It’s my favorite destination, and I feel like it is a third home of sorts.

In that time, I have watched the new World Trade Center – Freedom Tower – rise out of the ashes, 1,776 feet into the Manhattan skyline. The past two years, we’ve been to the top to enjoy the awe-inspiring view.

We started taking school groups to the September 11 Museum a few years ago when it first opened. If you ever get a chance, don’t miss it. If you lived through it, it will bring back a flood of memories. When you listen to the recordings donated by those who lost loved ones and see the donated memorabilia, you will try in vain to hold back tears. When you go out to the two memorials, which are the footprints of the old Twin Towers, and listen to the thousands of streams of water cascade into the ground drowning out the noise of the city streets into an almost eerie silence, and you read the names of the thousands of lost souls, it is impossible not to be moved.

I still wander around that area and other parts of downtown New York and wonder what it was like on that beautiful, sunny September morning – the utter chaos, the fear, the noise, the smoke, the screams, the blood, the falling debris. New York is still healing. A subway station that has been closed for the past 17 years is reopening. The scars will always be there – the reminders on every corner.

New York, like America overall, is a resilient place. When tragedy occurs, people come together to help, pray and comfort. We saw that locally with the 2011 tornadoes. I will never forget either of those days – Sept. 11, 2001, or April 27, 2011. No one who lived through either event will forget.

Be thankful for the country we live in. Be thankful for your community. Be thankful for your family and friends. God bless America – and Happy Birthday, Mallory!