On this anniversary of the 9/11/2001 tragedy, there are many ceremonies and TV specials to commemorate the memory of those who lost their lives that day. I am sure these are all fitting tributes, but these events do not come close to the living memorials in our hearts and minds.
The memory of that day is still vivid in my mind. I first heard the news of the attack as I was driving into SLU on I-44. I was working as the Head Athletic Trainer at Saint Louis University at the time. Fall sports season was in full swing and I anticipated a busy day covering a volleyball match and serving the needs of the rest of the Billiken athletes who needed my care.
Because there was road construction on I-44, I was listening to KMOX on the drive into work that day. I was listening to live coverage of Tiger Woods’ practice round at the PGA golf event taking place at Bellerive that week. As I drove past the Laclede Station Road exit, the morning anchor on KMOX cut in to report a terrible accident in New York City. They were still unsure of what was happening and I listened intently as I arrived at work and heard about the attack on the second tower, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
The Athletic Training Room had the only TV where Billiken athletes could watch the coverage in West Pine Gym. Slowly the number of athletes and staff began to accumulate in the Athletic Training Room as the sad news of the tragedy unfolded. Time stood still as we all sat in disbelief and silence. Tears flowed freely as we called our friends and relatives to try to make sense of the incident.
Several of us were directly affected by the incident. My brother Tim was in Manhattan, near ground zero on business that day. Many of our athletes and staff had connections to people embedded in the tragedy. Because the problems with communications, I did not hear from Tim until Wednesday and I remember my relief in hearing his voice!
The volleyball match with Indiana that day was cancelled and our upcoming trip to Florida was also cancelled as airline travel was temporarily suspended. FBI agents began to appear on our campus, as institutions with aviation programs were being investigated for possible leads on future attacks.
I barely slept that night waiting for Tim’s call as my family and I huddled watching the ongoing coverage of the aftermath. My brother Tim finally made his way out of the New York City on Friday and rented a car in Newark, NJ which he drove to our home in St. Louis. He arrived at about noon on Saturday tired and still reeling from the event he witnessed. We totally lost track of time as we spent the day talking and crying about our feelings, relieved we had survived, but grieving for those that did not.
I traveled with volleyball on its first road trip to Dallas and Houston a few weeks later. The airports were full of armed soldiers to maintain security. For months afterwards we feared there would be another incident, but thankfully, there has not…..
Our lives have been irreversibly changed by those events in September 2001 and all of the things that came later as a result. The greatest memorial we can provide those affected is to keep their memory alive in our hearts and minds, trying our best to serve others as a legacy to their sacrifice.
May God’s blessings be with you…