Seventeen years ago, the worst attack on American soil occurred with terrorists hijacking four planes resulting in the loss of almost 3,000 lives and additionally more than 6,000 injured in New York City at the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA. Everyone who was living at the time and old enough to remember, recalls what they were doing at those moments. And we must never forget the loss of lives and the way our society has changed forever as a direct result of the terrorist assault on American soil. Many others died later from illnesses due to the exposure to the dust in the attacks. Those who lost their lives were Americans and others from 90 countries.
At the time of the attacks, I lived on Capitol Hill and worked nearby in downtown Washington, D.C. I was rushing late for a deposition to be held at my office. When I arrived to the office, in hurry mode, I ordered the court reporter to go to the conference room and told my client I would be with her shortly. I failed to notice the eerie silence in the office until my office colleague brought me in to watch the breaking news on the office TV. The first World Trade Center tower had been hit and was engulfed in flames. As I sat in fear and horror, I watched in real time as the other attacks unfolded.
We were told to evacuate our office building after the plane hit the Pentagon. Most folks did not return to their office and went home—which took hours.
Living 8 blocks from the Capitol, I was scared to go home for fear that the Capitol might be hit. Instead I went to a college friend’s house overnight in nearby Silver Spring, MD which like D.C. was devoid of any people on the street. I was still reluctant to go home afterwards. I knew a few folks who were stranded in towns across the country when their planes were ordered to land.
For me and many others, it brought about the loss of innocence—that living in America was somehow a safe -haven –at least from terrorist activities. It broke the naiveté that modern-day terrorist attacks only occur abroad—never here. Watching Pres. George W. Bush, speaking on behalf of all Americans, brought a sense of unity. It was heart warming to see our allies abroad support us and stand beside us. For an entire week, I was glued to the TV—hanging on to every known fact.
What I will always remember about 911 is that our freedoms and way of life cannot be taken for granted. For many long weeks later, I saw police with rifles, military style trucks and tanks on Capitol Hill. It was a surreal scene like something in a movie—except it was real. Our way of life from boarding airplanes, entering government buildings to getting a driver’s license changed-forever.
On this 9/11 anniversary, we as Americans must remember that our U.S. allies stood with us and for us. And we must never forget that we are a global society. The isolationist policy today by the Trump administration is a flawed one which could prove fatal to us. And 911 proves that we must never forget the tragedy of loss of life and the global support of our world neighbors. Never forget.
Washington, D. C. based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor.