Day of Fire, Day of Death
I wrote this some years ago so that I would never forget. Sadly, there are those who have forgotten the shock of this day nineteen years on. And for some, it has been eclipsed by more recent horrific tragedy and the current administration’s purposely flaccid response.
I was in my art studio at the University of Chicago, and my colleague and I were just beginning the day’s work in medical illustration, when the AV guys across the hall knocked at the door saying, “you guys gotta see this, come quick.”
We rain in just after the first plane had struck the north tower. The normally boisterous and bumptious bunch of us were stunned into unaccustomed silence as we watched the black smoke billow up, corrupting the blue sky. The reports came in — we saw the second plane hit the south tower, then the Pentagon, the collapse of the south tower, the crash of doomed flight 93, out of which would come some of the most gut-wrenching tales of heroism, and then the collapse of the north tower.
And while the attacks in the Pacific theatre on December 7th, 1941 still claimed more lives, this one, whose deaths are still being counted today, was mostly intended for non-military victims. Our world altered in that one morning.
Fingers were pointed. Blame was wrongly thrust onto an entire cultural group, and that still happens far too often today. Perhaps in forgiveness of the callousness of white Americans, members of that cultural group quietly worked to do what they could to help their neighbors.
Fake heroes were made out of little men who had never done anything brave, while the real heroes of that day wore police blues, firefighter gear, and regular clothing. We still hear the echoes of those plane engines as we take off our shoes in the airport security lines.
I went home that evening and hugged my ten year old as hard as I could.