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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Roach

Do you remember? I do...

Do you remember where you were Tuesday, September 9, 2011 at 8:46 am when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York?

Do you remember where you were approximately 20 minutes later when the second tower was hit?

And do you remember where you were over the course of the next few hours when the world’s 4th/5th tallest buildings crumbled to the earth in sheer seconds?

I remember. My guess is you do, too. I am extremely ashamed to admit my first reaction was annoyance. Please let me explain. I was working in Atlanta at the time, 7.5 months pregnant with my daughter and I was leading a critical financial meeting. As Corporate Controller, I was preparing for maternity leave and it was imperative it went well. So when I heard a knock on my office door, I was super irritated. Geez! I am trying to work, people. Don’t they know when a door is shut it means P-R-I-V-A-C-Y?

So I yelled out, “I am in a meeting”. There, that should take care of it! But the knocker persisted. Knock. Knock. Knock. Damn, get the hint already. This better be good I thought to myself. “Come in,” I finally said and even though my face expressed total exasperation, it did not deter the intruder from announcing the news. “The World Trade Center has been hit by an airplane.”


Now, you think that statement, in and of itself, would have been enough to stop me in my tracks, but unfortunately and embarrassingly enough, I admit that my reaction sucked. I said out loud, “Wow, that’s a shame. Hopefully, there aren’t too many injuries.” WTH!!! Maybe to this day, the single, dumbest statement I’ve ever made. And with a “go away” look on my face, I thanked my co-worker for the news and then asked her to close the door behind her so I could resume my meeting. As bad as that moment was, I had not registered the enormity of it, most likely because I felt no direct impact on my life. With all of the violence and destruction in the world, I had become desensitized. Living in Atlanta, with one of the highest crime rates in America, I had become especially immune.

Not 20 minutes later, the second knock came. You think I would have sensed the pattern by then, but I was too self-involved. With the same frustrated voice, I barked out, “What?” allowing the chance for the person to enter but letting them know they better have a good excuse for this second interruption. And of course they did. As she delivered the second segment of the story, my heart sank. Tears welled up in my eyes. What was wrong with me? How could I have been so cold? What was happening? Are we going to war? What’s coming next? The questions went on and on… but the last one I remembered most… “What kind of world am I bringing my daughter into?”

This tragedy now had direct meaning. It was personal.

I did next what most Americans did. I watched hour after hour of horrendous news footage about America’s biggest tragedy, from the love stories of those lost, to the mass devastation, to the unbelievable heroics of our first responders. Americans were glued to the TV, the radio, to the news and now, to each other. It is single-handedly the most bonded moment I can recall in American history during my lifetime. Being an American became a priority, patriotism was revered, communities united and everyone seemed to love everyone. As bad as it was, there was some good in that instant.

Flash forward 16 years later and it seems like a million years ago. That sentiment of American brotherhood feels lost. I won’t get political as it’s not the point of this article, but our 9/11 bond has dissipated. As current day Americans, we’re oppositional, divided and combative. I am not judging the reasons nor belittling the battles, only mourning, with sad disposition, the death of our comradery.

A week and half ago, Tam and I got the opportunity to visit the World Trade Center 9/11 memorial. To say it was breathtaking, is a colossal understatement. For once in my life, I was completely without words. Resting on 8 acres, there sits two massive waterfalls (the largest man-made structures in NA), serving as footprints of the towers. There are approximately 3,000 names of the men, women and children killed in the attacks, etched on bronze parapets surrounding the twin Memorial pools. The World Trade Center website describes the memorial below. “The display of these names is the very heart of the Memorial. The design of the names parapet provides a direct relationship between the visitor, the names and the water, allowing for a feeling of quiet reverence between the visitor and the Memorial.

Names are stencil-cut into the parapets, allowing visitors to look through the names at the water and to create paper impressions or rubbings of individual names. At night, light shines up through the voids created by each letter of a name.”

There is so much to say about that visit that I could write a 1000 page book on it and it would not be enough. Even more difficult would be finding the right words. From the “Survivor Tree”, to the beauty of the Oculus, to the glory of the One World Trade Center building (Freedom Tower), there is so much to take in, to see, to experience. But here is the thing. My experience is my own. It belongs to me. While we all share common emotions about that day, the impact to us is unique. Seeing the memorial took me back to that moment when I was only weeks away from bringing my only daughter into this world and the fear I felt for her. She is 15 now. I am lucky; my opportunity to be a mother was not denied. I often wondered if there were pregnant women in the towers or on the planes, trying to make their escape, fearing for their unborn children’s lives. So today, I decided to Google it. And yes, there were. In fact, there were 10 pregnant women who died that day. Today I pay homage to them and their unborn babies:

Dianne T. Signer

Jennifer L. Howley

Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas

Jennifer L. Howley

Helen Crossin Kittle

Vanessa Lang Langer

Patricia Ann Cimaroli Massari

Renée A. May

Sylvia San Pio Resta

Rahma Salie

May they forever rest in peace.

I hope everyone has the opportunity to visit the World Trade Center Memorial. There is nothing like seeing it in person to remember. As I looked out over the serene pools of water, I recalled that day vividly. I remembered how grateful I was to be alive, to be an expectant mother with a chance to raise her daughter; I remembered how terribly sad I felt for those who lost their lives and the families devastated by these losses; I remembered how in awe I was of those people who unselfishly gave their lives to help; but mostly, I remembered how proud I was to be an American. I still am. I hope I never forget that.


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