Historic Independence Truman Courthouse
My husband called me from his office at the bank and said, “Turn on the news something is happening in New York.” I asked, “What channel?” He said “Every channel”
I switched on Good Morning America and sat on the foot of my bed when the second plane hit. I was 8 weeks pregnant with our first children. Twins.
Like many people, my first reaction was “This is an accident. Something has gone wrong.” Within moments, it was clear this was no accident but an intentional act of terror on America. From who?
New York. The greatest city in the greatest nation on earth. The city where I spent so much of my life — as a child growing up in upstate New York, rooting for the Giants and Yankees, visiting my grandparents at the Jersey Shore, attending college in Syracuse. Where so many of my friends and family lived and worked.
New York. My grandfather’s hometown. Where all my ancestors first set foot on American soil. That iconic skyline. Gone.
Then the Pentagon. And Pennsylvania. What was next? As we watched the terror and chaos in New York the rest of the world went quiet. No airplanes, no baseball games, no football games, no traffic on the streets and highways.
We tried to find each other. Check on your friends and family. Make sure everyone is safe. Cell phone service was limited as the whole country scrambled to locate their loved ones. People stranded on vacations and business trips with no way home. And praying, waiting for news of the dead and injured.
Months and years later, learning about those lost or nearly lost. My college classmate, Brian Novotny, killed at work in tower two. My friend, Angela, scheduled to be on flight #93 but missed her flight. Thank god.
Our twins were born April 9, 2002. Their entire life their country at war.
September 11, 2001 changed everything. Nothing is how it was before that terrible day. But lessons were learned – such as what to do in an emergency. Now my family has a plan, and your family should too.. We have a safe place and we all know to go there if there is an emergency. We have a contact person who we know to call to let them know we are okay.
Because of 9/11 our region is better prepared for a mass disaster. Since the Hyatt skywalk collapse in 1981, local leaders and first responder organizations have recognized that addressing large-scale events requires a regional effort. After 9/11 we redoubled our efforts and have not stopped; as threats have evolved, so have our strategies and capabilities.
Since 2001 we have improved:
- Interoperable communications. The radio interoperability capability across the region has been significantly improved since September 11, 2001 which puts agencies in a stronger position to respond.
- Enhanced partnerships. The region’s emergency operations centers and dispatch centers are now better connected, which allows them to support each other more effectively. Receiving and sharing information is improved. The region has increased the level of interagency communications, analysis, and information sharing designed to anticipate counter-terrorism and other threats.
- Specialized response teams, which include hazmat teams, technical rescue teams, explosive ordinance response teams, enhanced tactical teams, and a regional mass fatality team in place and ready to respond anywhere in the region. These groups frequently train and exercise together, so in the event of an incident they can seamlessly come together as one team.
- Improved pre-hospital care communications, coordination, capability, and med serge. These systems are critical components of the health systems and are necessary to improve outcomes of injuries and other time-sensitive illnesses. Over the past 18 months, through these improved systems, the region has been able to address the COVID-19 pandemic more efficiently.
- Engaging the public about the risks and opportunities they have to help themselves and help their neighbors. Many jurisdictions now have mass notification systems available to the public to be informed.
9/11. 911. Those 3 digits – “I’m in trouble. I need help. Please come.” Our first responders running to the danger.
9/11 brought grief and extraordinary loss but also hope. Ordinary Americans flew a plane into the ground to spare more lives.
All that mattered was “Are you okay?” Calling, calling, calling – can’t get through. Keep trying. Line up to give blood. Stay off the phone so others can get through. Listen and follow instructions. Keep each other safe.
“I’m in trouble. I need help. Please come.”
Where is that America now? Is it here in our memory and gratitude?