I was in 10th grade when Timothy McVeigh decided to ruin the lives of countless people one April morning in Oklahoma City. My dad worked just down the street on Lincoln Ave., and he had plenty of stories to tell that I didn’t want to hear. Stories of bodies, and chaos, and irreparable damage. I don’t think it’s that he was trying to frighten me; I think he just needed to tell someone to get it off his chest. I visited the Murrah Building with my dad shortly after, and it was heartbreaking. Years later, as an adult, I visited The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, and the memories of it haunt me to this day. If you’ve never paid it a visit, you should. Oklahoma City was personal to me, as an Oklahoman. But 9/11 was personal to all of us, as Americans.
On September 11, 2001, it was a morning like any other. I was a senior at Oklahoma State, and I was sound asleep. My roommates woke me in a panic, as they’d watched the first plane hit the World Trade Center on television. My mom called. Other friends called, asking if I was going to be deployed, as I was in the Oklahoma Air National Guard. One of my roommates was convinced that Stillwater would be a target and we should buy gas masks.
Just like April 19, 1995, we were glued to the TV for the rest of the day. We watched day after day, hearing stories of tragedy and triumph emerge from the dusty, debris-filled streets of Manhattan. We watched footage of police officers and firefighters sort through the remains of the Twin Towers. It was horrifying. And yet, it solidified our resolve as Americans.
Recently, I was finally able to visit the completed memorial in New York City. I stood there with tears on my cheeks as I thought back to that sunny September day. In Oklahoma, we were so far removed. But I still believe that we became more united than ever as a country on that fateful day.
Today, we remember the fallen in the 9/11 attacks. We will never forget.